When Flea Meets Upton Sinclair

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Top left: Dr. Robert K. Ross (President & CEO of the California Endowment) & Kafi Blumenfield; top right: Jackie Goldberg (Board of Airport Commissioner) ; bottom left: Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist); and bottom right: Javier Stauring (Co-Director of the Office of Restorative Justice of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

Liberty Hill’s crack team of party planners has just finalized our April 22 Upton Sinclair Awards Dinner program and we want to share the goodness.

We’re talking not only a welcome from Mayor Eric Garcetti, some tough but hopeful remarks from Liberty Hill’s President/CEO Shane Goldsmith, and a much-discussed roster of honorees, but also a provocative musical performance by Los Angeles actor and rock legend John Doe, and a who’s who of fascinating social justice personalities from the worlds of art, religion, politics and philanthropy who are joining us as presenters.

Presenting to our Creative Visions honorees, Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, is Flea, the bassist for Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a founder of the Silverlake Conservancy of Music. Flea appeared in one of the producing team’s films, “Low Down,” a prizewinner at Sundance this year. Albert and Ron are longtime Liberty Hill supporters, in fact, the script for their recent Oscar-nominated movie “Nebraska” was first brought to their attention by a Liberty Hill pal, Julie Thompson.

Our Upton Sinclair honoree Scott Budnick will receive his award from Javier Stauring for his noteworthy efforts to reform California’s policies on juvenile justice and prisons. Perhaps better than anyone in LA, Javier understands juvenile justice and the importance of reform. Since joining the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1995 to oversee the largest Catholic detention ministry in the country, Javier has consistently innovated an approach to criminal justice that promotes healing over punishment.

Amazing L.A. activist Jackie Goldberg will present the Founders Award to Veronica Gutierrez. As L.A. Councilmember, State Assemblymember, former president of the Los Angeles Board of Education, lesbian extraordinaire and as the L.A. Times would have it, “Los Angeles City Council’s major pain in the behind,” Jackie has inspired and mentored a generation of women leaders in L.A.

Finally, and fabulously, Dr. Robert K. Ross will present the Diversity in Philanthropy Award to Kafi D. Blumenfield. Dr. Ross’ leadership as President/CEO of The California Endowment has created models in our state for improving the health and well-being of all residents that are showing the way nationally for cities and regions to address persistent problems and harness local energy for a better future.

You know you want to be there. Get your tickets HERE!

 

 

Why You Should Visit “LA Collection” at the Social Justice Marketplace

By Shana Weiss

Imagine walking into a storied ballroom and hearing the “furious agitprop” of Rage Against the Machine and then turning slowly to find someone next to you thumbing through a copy of T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain. And then, just as you look up, you catch a glimpse of old movie footage: It’s Richard Pryor in the 1973 film “Wattstax”.

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You’re in the middle of Liberty Hill’s Social Justice Marketplace, taking in the provocative, stimulating elements of the “LA Collection,” a marvelous miscellany created especially for the 2014 Upton Sinclair Dinner.

Later this month—on April 22 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel—the Liberty Hill community will gather together to celebrate the innovative work of Liberty Hill and to raise desperately needed funds for social change. Each year, we honor activists who’ve inspired us just a little bit more to alter the world around us.

The dinner has always been a different kind of gala—one that features a lively roomful of visionaries, rabble rousers, activists and supporters. And the event already stands apart in its diversity, camaraderie and social justice spirit. It’s a fun evening where those on the frontlines of making change gather to celebrate, network, and recommit to making Los Angeles a better, stronger city.

CD - Ozomatli - Ozomatli

This year, in addition to saluting our wonderful honorees, we are saluting the savvy of Liberty Hill’s donor-activist community by hosting a Social Justice Marketplace (SJM). Our SJM will feature a salon of sorts, complete with a curated selection of albums, books, and films addressing the history of Los Angeles through a social justice lens.

The writers, filmmakers and musicians highlighted in this “LA Collection” don’t necessarily provide solutions to problems arising from injustices around race, class, and/or gender, but they do give voice to characters and experiences that unite us all.

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Think pop-up library with the best books of your college curriculum . . . or an annotated playlist that features seminal albums like NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton,” the 1988 exploration of poverty, police brutality, a decaying educational system, and unchecked materialism.  Or Ozomatli’s debut album where they run down a checklist of social ills including poverty, corporate and political malfeasance, and media manipulated racial tensions. For inspiration about the aspects of Los Angeles that enrich our lives, we’ll feature Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold’s book, Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles which dedicates itself to exploring the myriad neighborhoods, communities and cultural exchanges in the city, looking for a common thread through food.

Gary Stewart and I had the privilege of curating the collection with Ernest Hardy, a Sundance Fellow and much-treasured music and film critic who has written some really smart mini-essays about each work.  Asked why he signed on for the task, Gary says “From the ahead-of-its-time examination of the immigrant dream and nightmare in Gregory Nava’s 1984 film “El Norte’ to Mike Davis lauded urban critique City Of Quartz to NWA’s masterpiece album “Straight Outta Compton,” we’re hoping to show how the best and brightest in the arts are an essential part of the work that informs the best community organizing.”

So please join us April 22 at the Upton Sinclair Dinner and stop by the Social Justice Marketplace to browse through a text you may have heard about but never explored, or rediscover works you have loved in the past. You can buy individual books, CDs and DVDs on the spot to take home and savor. You can even buy the whole “LA Collection” and commit to weeks of great films, juicy reads and stunning songs.

For more information, and to buy tickets to the 2014 Upton Sinclair Dinner, please go to http://www.libertyhill.org/dinner.

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Green Business Benefits in Wilmington

By Crystal Shaw

Two weeks ago, on the first day of spring, I attended the “Green Business Benefits” workshop hosted by  Liberty Hill, in partnership with the organizations Communities For A Better Environment (CBE)  and the Coalition for a Safe Environment (CFASE) in Wilmington as part of the Clean Up Green Up initiative.  Potential and current local business owners were invited for a complimentary (and delicious) lunch provided by Wilmington’s own Los Tres Cochinitos restaurant while they were informed about some very beneficial programs to help make their businesses greener.

Councilmember Joe Buscaino giving welcome remarks

Councilmember Joe Buscaino, Council District 15

This event hit close to home for me because my family and I attend church just blocks away from the workshop location at the Wilmington Senior Citizen Center.  It was poignant because every Sunday on the way to church—ok, not every Sunday, but most Sundays (hey, I’m a work in progress)—as we exit the 710 Freeway and head west on Pacific Coast Highway past all the plants and refineries, my children pay close attention.  They ask a multitude of “Why this?” and “How come that?” questions as they notice stinky smells, dark billowing plumes of smoke, huge mounds of bright yellow sulfur and glowing fire along the way. At the workshop, I got answers to some of my own questions, and learned along with business people about programs and incentives to help reduce environmental impacts on their neighborhoods. Clean Up Green Up is a cutting-edge environmental policy that calls for the creation of “Green Zones” in “toxic hotspot” communities—areas with high concentrations of pollution sources adjacent to homes, schools and family daycare centers.  Exposure to these toxins can cause high rates of asthma, cancer, birth defects and other health problems.  The City Council has taken several important steps toward creating L.A.’s first Green Zones in three areas: Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Wilmington.  Neighbors and community leaders have organized the Clean Up Green Up campaign to fight local pollution while calling for targeted financial assistance and incentives to stimulate safe, clean and green businesses and local jobs.  To find out why Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Wilmington were selected to be Green Zones, go here.

Raymond Gutierrez from the L.A. Department of Water and Power explained his goal at the workshop. “We want to let business owners know that there are programs that the Department of Water and Power offers that they can take advantage of, that will save them money, that will improve their businesses,” he said. “All these things are offered to the small business in particular and that’s why we’re here, so that they know what we do, how we do it and how they can take advantage of it.”

Darryl Molina Sarmiento, Southern California Program Director for CBE, said that one of the specific concerns that she’s been hearing from the Wilmington community is that there’s a general lack of information and lack of access to the types of green benefits that are available to small business and communities, pointing out that it’s hard for businesses struggling to stay afloat in a tough economy to take time out to find out about these programs.

For Councilmember Joe Buscaino, Council District 15, who gave the welcoming remarks, these issues are near and dear to his heart.  He was born and raised in the Harbor Community, members of his family worked the docks, and, along with his wife, he’s raising his two children here as well.  , “It’s important for us to keep the jobs here and it’s important for the Port of Los Angeles to be competitive,” he said in his opening remarks, “But it’s also important for the Port to be green as well.”

The workshop panel was drawn from several agencies that offer incentives and benefits to businesses aiming to go green. Speakers were Miguel Acuña from the City of L.A. Economic and Workforce Development Department, Jinderpal Bhandal from the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation, Philip Crabbe from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Nabil Yacoub from the Department of Toxic Substances Control, Maychelle Yee and Raymond Gutierrez from the L.A. Department of Water & Power, Charlie Lowe from the Small Business Development Center and Steven John from the Environmental Protection Agency Region 9.

The attendees listened intently to the presentation and studied the booklets and brochures provided.  Panelists offered concrete examples such as the DWP’s Small Business Direct Install Program that offers lighting retrofit, water aerators, shower heads all for free.

Sylvia Padia and attendees

Wilmington business owner Sylvia Padia and other workshop attendees study booklets and brochures

Sylvia Padia, who owns a small auto repair shop in Wilmington said she liked the workshop because she and her husband have been trying to get a loan for their business and information from the Small Business Development Center gave her a great lead.  She said she’d been wondering how to make her business more environmentally friendly and the workshop had given her a lot of information on how to get started.

Upcoming Clean Up Green up workshops are as follows:

May 8th Boyle Heights

May 14th Pacoima

May 20th Wilmington

 

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What do women want? Workers’ rights!

By Jonathan Skurnik

Aquilina Soriano is the Executive Director at Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, one of the most active workers’ rights groups in the Liberty Hill community of grassroots organizations. As an important part of the California Domestic Workers Coalition and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, PWC has been on the front lines of the fight to extend labor law protections to healthcare workers, nannies, housekeepers and others whose workplace is a home. Most of these workers are low income women of color, some of whom are undocumented.

“Domestic work is viewed as woman’s work,” Aquilina explains, “so it’s actually devalued. And for many years, domestic workers have been excluded from a lot of the basic labor protections that other workers enjoy, such as minimum wage and overtime pay.”

Aquilina Soriano (right) with Margarita Ramirez

Aquilina Soriano (right) with Margarita Ramirez

Aquilina tells the story of one of her members, a domestic worker with three children. Because she’s a “live-in,” caring for her client 24 hours a day, her own children are deprived of her love and guidance. In addition, her employer doesn’t pay for sick days, which means she’s unable to take time off when her children are ill. On top of these hardships, her hourly wage is only $3.16. “They’re barely making their rent,” Aquilina says of her organization’s members. “They can only send a little bit of money back home [if they're immigrants] and they’re having to go to food banks to subsidize their monthly earnings. There’s so much financial stress that they’re carrying on their shoulders.”

Thanks to the community organizing efforts of Pilipino Workers Center and its partners, the California legislature passed and Governor Brown signed into law the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which went into effect January 1, 2014.

“This is huge for a couple of reasons,” says Aquilina. “Being recognized as having equal rights means we’re shifting the paradigm from viewing domestic workers as servants to seeing them as valued workers serving an important role in society. It can also make a huge difference in the women’s lives. When paid properly, domestic work can be a wonderful job where they’re also doing good in the world.”

As with many laws designed to protect vulnerable members of society, there can be significant lag time between the passage of a law and its enforcement. Aquilina explains, “Making it a reality in all workers’ lives in all the homes across California is the next step. It’s more difficult than actually passing the law. We’re training a good number of workers who will go out and advocate and educate within our community, so workers themselves know what their rights are and can start advocating for them.”

Another challenge is immigration status: “The fear of being reported and losing their jobs is very real,” says Aquilina. “Often there are many people depending on the workers’ incomes, so it’s scary to address these issues when they’re afraid that they may be fired for doing so.” So Pilipino Workers Center is also teaching employers about the new law and helping them to implement it. Hand In Hand: The Domestic Employers Association, an organization that actively supports domestic workers rights has collaborated with PWC to create educational materials, including worksheets and forms, that describe how to “build a healthy working relationship” and meet one’s obligations as an employer under the new law.

“But what is a gold standard?” says Aquilina, “How can we actually help employers do better than just the minimum? So we also have materials for employers to think about how they can step it up,” she adds enthusiastically, “and provide things like contracts and vacation pay.”

The campaign for women’s rights as it plays out in the domestic worker arena is quite personal for Aquilino. “One, I am a woman of color,” she explains. “And being an Executive Director, I’m busy with work and travel and rely on child care. Fortunately my mother provides it, but if not, I would need the help of a domestic worker in order to play the role that I’m playing on a statewide level, on a national level. Domestic workers have made it possible for women like me to go out into the workforce and still have their children, their homes, and their loved ones cared for. So fighting for domestic worker rights to have dignified jobs with living wages is critical to fighting for women’s rights overall.”

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Frontlines to Headlines February 2014

For many of Liberty Hill’s organizing partners, February’s news coverage was about getting recognized for important work. From spots on top ten lists to personal profiles of group leaders, the work of Liberty Hill’s affiliated activists is not going unnoticed. Meanwhile, other organizations turned up the heat on ongoing campaigns, and Liberty Hill CEO Shane Murphy Goldsmith kicked off March by bringing the message of Change, Not Charity, to a major online network.

March 5

The Young Turks TV network program The Point with Ana Kasparian wanted to talk about effective charitable giving, so they assembled a panel of some of the most knowledgeable people on the subject: “International Bank of Bob” author Bob Harris; Afghan Women’s Mission founder and Uprising Radio host Sonali Kolhatkar; and Liberty Hill CEO Shane Murphy Goldsmith.

March 3

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Businesswoman Gael Sylvia Pullen, Compton Mayor Aja Brown and Liberty Hill Foundation board member Ange-Marie Hancock

Uplifting Change is Liberty Hill’s initiative to connect local donor-activists and help them leverage community assets to strengthen Black Los Angeles through philanthropic investment in grassroots community organizing. Blog Black Gives Back reports from the fifth annual Uplifting Change Summit, held on February 27.

Feb. 26

Funders for LGBTQ Issues included the Liberty Hill Foundation on its list of the top ten funders of African American LGBTQ Communities for the years 2011-2012. The list appeared in the Funders for LGBTQ Issues February newsletter and on the organization’s website.

GRANTEE GROUPS IN ACTION

Feb. 27

An L.A. Weekly article about the LAPD’s adoption of military style surveillance practices featured quotes from Youth Justice Coalition’s Ana Muniz. Muniz spoke out against the militarization of the local police force..

Feb. 26

Clean Up Green Up campaign group Coalition for a Safe Environment appeared in a Los Angeles Times piece about the organization’s work measuring air pollution in a Wilmington community adjacent to an oil refinery. The article quotes from a local resident concerned about harmful chemicals in the air, and features a photo of Coalition for a Safe Environment’s executive director, Jesse Marquez, installing a pollution-monitoring device on the roof of a local house.

Feb. 24

The Los Angeles Daily News ran an article about “Fast for Families Across America,” a bus tour that will bring immigration reform activists to meet with decision makers nationwide, as many of the participants fast for religious reasons and to show solidarity. The article quoted Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles lamenting the separation of families due to immigration policy, and expressing determination to win comprehensive reform.

Feb. 24

Currently, apartment building owners can pass on half the cost of seismic retrofitting to tenants. In February, Councilman Bernard Parks floated the idea of allowing owners to pass on the entire amount. The L.A. Times turned to Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival for a reaction, and he didn’t mince words in expressing the group’s opposition.

Feb. 22

Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) made headlines in a Long Beach Press-Telegram article about the organization’s efforts to improve student access to healthcare and other support services. The article focused on KGA’s health fair at a Long Beach high school, which included participants from groups like Planned Parenthood and Healthy Active Long Beach.

Feb. 20

KPCC’s Multi-American blog covered the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles’s (CHIRLA) recent “call-a-thon,” an action to build support for immigration reform. CHIRLA activists set up a table in downtown L.A., asking passersby to call elected officials and express support for better immigration policies.

Feb. 19

2/19 The Bus Riders’ Union appeared in a Los Angeles Times article about the organization’s recent activities, including a protest at the Western Avenue subway station against major long-term fair hikes. The article quoted Bus Riders’ Union co-chair Barabara Lott-Holland, who pointed out that transit riders already help fund the system through sales tax.

Pasadena Weekly’s coverage of the fare-increase mentioned the Bus Riders’ Union as well.

Feb. 18

The Long Beach Press-Telegram ran an article about $2.6 million in new funding for affordable housing in Long Beach. The article quoted Housing Long Beach’s executive director, Kerry Gallagher, praising the development.

Feb. 13

Inquirer.net profiled the Pilipino Workers’ Center, featuring several quotes from director Aquilina Soriano Versoza. The article focused on the PWC’s importance as a support system for many Filipino immigrants, who are often vulnerable to workplace exploitation.

Feb. 11

Zócalo Public Square featured CADRE co-founder Maisie Chin twice recently. First she appeared as part of a roundtable discussion about making school discipline practices more constructive, and involving communities more fully in the educational system. Then she received her own interview in which she elaborated on personal and political topics.

Feb. 10

CBS Los Angeles quoted Emilio Lacques of Youth Justice Coalition in an article about the L.A. County Sherriff Department’s appointment of an inspector to monitor the department for wrongdoing. Lacques spoke out at a town hall meeting, expressing skepticism toward the department’s willingness to prosecute its own staff.

Feb. 7

TRUST South L.A. appeared in a piece on StreetsBlog L.A. about a recent “Active Streets” event at Vermont Square Park. Co-organized by TRUST South L.A., “Active Streets” participants tour Los Angeles neighborhoods, learning safe routes for walking and biking.

Jan. 28

Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) co-director and co-founder Saru Jayaraman earned a spot on the Nation’s Restaurant News list of the 50 most powerful people in foodservice. Read about it at ROC’s website, and view the rest of the list here.

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How Do You Make Your Giving Count? Ask Liberty Hill’s Shane Murphy Goldsmith

The Young Turks TV network program The Point with Ana Kasparian wanted to talk about effective charitable giving, so they assembled a panel of some of the most knowledgeable people on the subject: The International Bank of Bob author Bob Harris; Afghan Women’s Mission founder and Uprising Radio host Sonali Kolhatkar; and Liberty Hill CEO Shane Murphy Goldsmith. Watch Shane share the Liberty Hill of message of Change, Not Charity, at 6:54, 11:13 and at the very end.

Advancing Equality in Montana

Fighting homophobia has been central to National Coalition Building Institute Missoula (NCBI Missoula)’s work since it was founded in 1998 in response to incidents of racist and homophobic violence in the region.  One of the tragic catalysts for the organization’s mission was a near-fatal arson attack on the home of a lesbian couple and their infant son.

A $100,000 multi-year grant from Liberty Hill’s Queer Youth Fund, awarded to NCBI Missoula during the fund’s 2009-2010 cycle has helped this vital anti-hate organization respond to the needs of a new generation of queer youth by creating a safe, structured space for young LGBTQ people to gather with peers and plan the next stages in the struggle for equality.

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Youth Forward members and NCBI Trainers Stacia and Michelle at the 2013 High School Train-The-Trainers summer camp.

“It was our high school young people who came and said that we have Gay-Straight Alliance groups in our schools and they’re great but we need a citywide safe space for queer youth,” says NCBI Missoula’s Melissa Fisher. “They said we need some place for folks from all over town to find each other and support each other.”

NCBI Missoula coordinates the Montana Safe Schools Coalition, providing districts with training and resources “to fulfill their duty of providing safe educational experiences for all students.” It trains businesses and organizations in overcoming prejudice in the workplace, leads community initiatives and workshops such as “Eliminating White Racism,” and “Diversity Day,” and works to build an inclusive community in many other ways. When young people who had participated in their programs spoke, NCBI Missoula listened.

“We truly value the leadership role that our young people can play and realize our young people can lead adults. We said this is something we need to do. We knew we needed to keep preventing and reducing violence and stopping homophobia in all of our programs, but we also needed to make a safe space for queer youth. We couldn’t have done it without the Queer Youth Fund and Liberty Hill.”

What was the urgency? The school programs were solid; diversity trainings for all ages incorporated anti-homophobia education.

“Montana is different from big cities,” says Melissa. “I grew up here and I left for Seattle because I didn’t feel safe. I identify as a lesbian and I felt I needed to be in a city with a bigger queer community. Montana is not as accepting, not as open. It’s scary to walk down the street with your partner. Our young people need a space where they can be together and know they’re loved. Being able to launch Youth Forward was huge!”

After planning and development, Youth Forward was launched in the fall of 2010. Participants meet 50 weeks out of the year, including during the summer. Four times a year, youth leaders map out discussion topics for the next several weeks. Though the group is led by trained social workers, there’s a focus on political education, community organizing and leadership development. Topics have included healthy bodies, healthy relationships, dealing with faith-based stigma, mental health issues, adultism, ageism—all from the perspective of how these issues relate to queer youth.

Youth Forward members at NCBI's High School Train the Trainers summer camp.

Youth Forward members at NCBI’s High School Train the Trainers summer camp.

“Youth Forward has grown and developed into a social justice advocacy group,” says Melissa. “The young leaders go back to their high schools and to the state legislature and push for anti-bullying policy. It’s launching them into a visible role in national legislation advocacy.”

At the heart of NCBI Missoula’s work is leadership development, and the Queer Youth Fund grant has made it possible for Youth Forward to grow “mindfully and in the direction the young people want it to.”

The multi-year support gives NCBI Missoula “the stability to take on these bigger bites, next steps,” says Melissa. For example, NCBI Missoula has recently taken on the role of being the GSA Network coordinator for the state of Montana, and is helping to support queer youth in rural and reservation communities.  “We couldn’t take that on without knowing we can be here next year to do the work we’ve committed to do.”

For more information on the Queer Youth Fund, please visit http://www.libertyhill.org/queeryouthfund

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A Circle of Support

As Zahirah Mann tells it, the concept for Angelenos for Los Angeles, a giving circle housed at Liberty Hill, came together over several months.

She and co-chair Anne-Marie Jones and several of their friends formed the giving circle in fall of 2011, and made their first grant at the end of 2012. But some of the first ingredients—the information that sparked a decision to make more impact with their philanthropy—came in February 2011 at Uplifting Change, Liberty Hill’s initiative to bring together local donor-activists to leverage community assets to strengthen Black Los Angeles.

“Professor Ange-Marie Hancock gave a presentation at the conference discussing her own philanthropy and the findings of her survey of African American philanthropy in Los Angeles. She described philanthropic giving in the Black community, which primarily consists of individuals donating to their churches and schools, assisting their families and so on. This type of giving is thoughtful and in many cases substantial, but not necessarily strategic.”

_UC_candid_ind_Z.Mann_AngelenosforLAZahirah remembers that Ange-Marie, now a member of Liberty Hill’s Board, used her own history as an example, explaining how she began to direct her philanthropy in a more targeted way.

The presentation resonated with Zahirah, who thought about how she and her husband were giving as a couple. “We are ardent environmentalists. He, especially, was making donations to anyone and everyone who called or sent a letter requesting a donation. Our giving was spread among a number of groups. While all the organizations were concerned with an issue we cared about, our giving was not at all targeted.”

At that same 2011 Uplifting Change, Zahirah and Anne-Marie were intrigued by a panel on giving circles. “The panelists spoke about how they were able to make high impact gifts each year by pooling their resources with friends and colleagues,” says Zahirah. “We were impressed with how much some groups were able to give in grants, amounts that for us would be really aspirational!”

From those first sparks of an idea, Zahirah and Anne-Marie, along with some dedicated friends, “decided to form an organization where we could come together and do some high impact giving. Since so much of the idea started at Uplifting Change, we were very focused on giving back to L.A. and to the Black community. After a few discussions, we decided that our mission would be to create and support positive social change in the greater Los Angeles Black community.”

There are now 15 active participants, and several additional contributors. Angelenos for Los Angeles  encourages participation at a number of different levels delineated in the membership agreement, which asks participants how involved they would like to be in the circle, regardless of their investment level. The bylaws outline the governance structure based on investment, including rules related to voting and other decision-making. Members of the circle give at least $900 annually, which membership can be shared between up to three individuals; supporters of the circle give at least $100 annually. All participants are encouraged to gather at different times throughout the year in a “casual social setting where everyone can come as they are” to discuss potential grantees, community involvement, and a host of other issues that relate back to the mission and advancement of the work.

For the grantmaking, “we do not have an application process,” says Zahirah, “Circle participants come to the group and describe organizations whose work is consistent with the circle’s mission. Each person brings their own experience to the discussion and it really helps us understand the best way to move forward.”

Of the circle’s very first grant in 2012, she says, “It was so exciting. We had an end of the year party; as we were counting up the votes there was so much energy in the room! The first year we raised enough funds to make a grant of $10,000 plus a contribution to Liberty Hill. The main grant went to Peace4Kids. We were so excited to have learned about the organization, a group working with foster youth— if we can improve their outcomes, we get that much closer to resolving so many other societal concerns related to homelessness, criminal justice, etc.”

Now moving into a third year, Angelenos for Los Angeles made their 2013 grants to the Los Angeles Black Worker Center and Peace4Kids and also a contribution to Uplifting Change, honoring Kafi D. Blumenfield.

The giving circle has evolved. They’ve done away with having subcommittees and doing site visits, instead availing themselves of Liberty Hill’s due diligence process. And they’ve learned what works for them.

“It helps to have everything happen in the context of the broader group, where everyone is given the opportunity to participate,” says Zahirah. “It’s been a great exercise in trust. What we have found is that everyone who actively participates in the circle is not only invested financially, they are invested in the process and invested in the outcome. What’s great about our giving circle is that once people feel committed to the group, they do everything they can to ensure the continuation of the group and its mission. I think that has actually been the biggest accomplishment of the circle and what I am most proud of: helping to develop a group of active philanthropists. They are simply amazing.”

And with that kind of sustainability, Angelenos for Los Angeles will be giving with impact, to be pooling resources and awarding meaningful amounts in grants, and to be creating lasting change for the better in L.A. for years to come.

For information about starting a giving circle, please visit http://www.libertyhill.org/donor-services/donor-advised-accounts#givingcircles or contact Blanch Ross at 323.556.7203 or bross@libertyhill.org.

To read Giving Black in Los Angeles: Donor Profiles and Opportunities for the Future (2012), download the report at http://www.libertyhill.org/results/reports

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Angelo Logan Reflects on Executive Order 12898

By guest blogger Angelo Logan, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

angelo-speakingTwenty years have passed since President Clinton signed an executive order meant to address environmental injustice in communities of color…yet our communities continue to struggle. I say this with respect and gratitude for people like Rita Harris, Vernice Miller-Travis, Richard Moore, Charles Lee and many others who have paved the way for environmental justice (EJ) work and helped get Executive Order 12898 signed.  Today, I had the honor of participating on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) panel, which included a group of strong EJ leaders discussing the Executive Order and the past and future of EJ work. I heard many of my colleagues express similar thoughts. Inspiring words were spoken during the panel discussion, such as, “remember where we come from,” “keep up the struggle,” and “together we can create the visions we need”. In short the message was: we have come a long way but we have an even longer way to go.

Most people in our communities do not know about the Executive Order, and don’t depend on it for environmental protection. Our communities depend on each other, on community organizing, to build power and fend off the continuous toxic assaults on our communities.  Nonetheless, the Executive Order and the creation of NEJAC have helped foster a movement for environmental health and justice. The value of the Executive Order and NEJAC, in my opinion, is the convergence of EJ allies from North to South and East to West. There is great value in the discussions and partnerships that arise among EJ advocates in the hallways of meetings, summits, and panels such as this one. The sense that “together we can create the vision we need”, that we are not alone in this struggle, and that our allies can act as mentors, helps reenergize us to continue the fight for environmental justice. Today, I celebrate the EJ movement and hope the Order can continue to help foster this collaboration.

Although the future of EJ work will continue to be a struggle, I look forward to many more years, fighting for Environmental Justice with our brothers and sisters.

This post originally appeared on East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice’s blog

Shout-out from POTUS!

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By Karen Driscoll, Program Assistant, Brothers Sons Selves

Last night, as President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address, members of the Brothers Sons Selves Coalition watched together along with friends and family at a viewing party at Community Coalition, co-hosted by Liberty Hill.  Viewers listened intently as President Obama mentioned a range issues from high unemployment to education reform.

A highlight for the young activists in the room came early on in the speech, when President Obama shared the story of Estiven Rodriguez, a young New Yorker who was able to learn English and excel in a supportive school system. Then, the Chief Executive announced that among the actions he’s taking to move America forward this year is how he’s “reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on tract and reach their full potential.”BSS boy

This statement  shows that the President has made a new White House initiative to reform school discipline announced earlier in January a priority of the coming year. As described in our blog post Race and Reality, President Obama’s remarks pay homage to the work of the Brothers Sons Selves successful “School Climate Bill of Rights” campaign that have made Los Angeles and Long Beach national models for ways to improve school climate for  boys and young men of color.

At the viewing party, Timothy Walker, an 11th grade Crenshaw High School student and member of the Brothers Sons Selves Coalition, said that he was surprised and excited by the President’s mention of the issues that affect him.

“If Obama mentions it, then everyone will see it as an issue,” Timothy said.

When you think of all the problems facing the country, it’s so great to win a shout-out in the State of the Union Address.  This comes after several years of work by the community organizers and youth organizers of Brothers Sons Selves,  and will undoubtedly help propel our efforts forward so that every young man of color will be seen as an integral asset to this nation’s success.
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