We are the Social Justice Student Organization. Our mission is to build the political and social capacity of our community by bringing students and families into the decision-making bodies that affect Watts. This includes The Watts Neighborhood Council, the LA City Council and our local senators and congresspeople. Our goal is to raise awareness of issues in our community so that we can increase community engagement. These issues include water cleanliness, environmental health, decaying infrastructure, displacement, poverty, and fear of deportation, all of which are interrelated.
This year we are organizing to legalize street vendors in Los Angeles. This includes pushing the LA City council to pass a proposal that allows vendors to sell their goods.
Under the category of civic engagement, we addressed the harassment of street vendors in Los Angeles and the need for street vending legalization. Street Vendors are part of our community. Many of the students at Simon Tech have family members who are street vendors. All of our students interact with street vendors regularly and consider them part of their community.
Street Vendors are displaced, ticketed, and harassed which negatively affects their families and their ability to earn a living. This issue also connects to the larger issue of gentrification in which communities of color are pushed out of their communities. Through the work we learned how to affect local public policy and how to advocate for ourselves and others.
Our process included weekly meetings, collective agenda building, creating committees and consistent email communication. We broke in to committee with team lead as committee chairs. We started planning in October 2017 by having meetings every Wednesday after school. In the Spring e met twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays. To help recruit and build bonds with new members, we went on a field trip to a Day of the Dead event at the end of October and a field trip to attend a college class at CSULA in March.
We spent most of November researching how to get involved and getting better acquainted with the way the City of Los Angeles runs. Through our advisor's connection we were able to contact the East LA Community Corporation, or ELACC, and get their commitment to bring us in to the campaign to legalize street vendors in Los Angeles. This was very difficult as a community campaign is often fast paced and has to respond the the city council cancelling and changing meetings. This meant we had to have a plan that was flexible.
We organized two retreats , one in December as a planning retreat and one in April to make sure we were ready to for organizing blitzes. ELACC organizers and volunteers came to our retreats to present on the campaign and helped us define our role. Through the organizers, we learned that only recently, in January of 2017 , street vending was decriminalized in LA. That means that street vendors were being arrested for selling. However, vending was still not legal and vendors were dealing with harassment, fines and in extreme cases violence all for just making a living and supporting their families. This was our first experience hearing the details of policy at the city level.
With the help of the organizers, we planned the entire semester which involved classroom workshops, postering the school, attending city meetings, creating petitions, and letters of support. . We planned to kick off our campaign in January once we returned from the winter break. However, we still needed to plan more and make adjustments. When January came our focus became was building support at our school site and sending representative to participate delegations to the city council.
For our school site, we had classroom workshops from February to April. We supported a city council meeting in March in honor of international women’s day that spotlighted the woman-led street vendor campaign. in April, we started our petition and support letter blitz immediately after the retreat. After the April 17th city council meeting we focused on gathering our documents, videos, and editing our website.
Project Plan HERE
Our performance indicators are number of people attending our events, number of people attending meetings, number of relationships built with organizations and universities, as well as the growth in our organization.well as keep records with videos, images, quotes, observational notes from meetings and conversations regarding future work.
For more on outcome, including quotes and break down of date and short and long term outcomes go to the OUTCOMES
Diane with Press at City Council Meeting
Overall, we are proud of the work we have done. We made an impact on community effort to create policy in Los Angeles. The most difficult was the pace of organizing. Since one of us had been involved in a community campaign, it was hard to find out place. The school is often detached from community efforts especially efforts that center in downtown LA. We tried to go to more than a couple city council meetings but the dates were not locked down. It was hard to organize turn-out for meetings during the day that might be cancelled. Once we figured out how we would plug to school in support efforts, the campaign kicked off quickly. If we could do this again, we would have started the petitions earlier and got more letters from students. We would have done more delegations and took busloads of students to city council meetings. We would like the judges to know that this was hard work. We learned how to petitions, go on delegations, register to make public comment at city council, create visuals to promote a campaign, and work with a community organization. Also, coming up we will be phone banking to legislatures regarding SB 946 to push them to decriminalize street vendors across California.
For more individual student reflections go HERE
For more individual student reflections go HERE