Training a New Generation of Leaders

 Fighting for a Sustainable South East Los Angeles (SELA)

Organizer, Robert Cabrales, conducting a community workshop

by Bahram Fazeli, Southern California Researcher

CBE is working closely with SELA community leaders, residents, and allies to challenge polluting projects and transform SELA neighborhoods into more sustainable communities through a number of campaigns. Our advocacy in the Los Angeles County Planning Department is challenging the irresponsible expansion of a highly polluting metal recycling operation in Walnut Park. We are working with allies to demand that Caltrans and Metro create a more health-protective project as they plan to expand the I-710 (the Long Beach freeway). In this campaign, we continue to push for zero-emission freight movement technology, a more comprehensive public transit infrastructure, revitalization of the LA River, and creation of bikeable and walkable design elements, as well as health-protective mitigation measures. In addition to these campaigns, we are working with the US EPA and other stakeholders in our Brown-to-Green project to revitalize abandoned polluted land in Huntington Park.

But, we can only accomplish these ambitious goals when community members engage with the decision-makers directly. That is why CBE invests extensive resources in leadership development trainings and popular education workshops. Our youth and adult community organizers, who are themselves graduates of CBE leadership programs, are passionately training a new generation of leaders in SELA. Our youth program, Youth for Environmental Justice (YouthEJ) is one of the most successful environmental justice leadership programs in the country, with an ever-growing participation of students from three area high schools: South East, Huntington Park and South Gate.

Our adult program, United Residents of South East LA (URSELA), also continues to thrive. The story of Fernando Solis is a prime example. Fernando is a resident of Bell (in SELA) and has been an active member of URSELA since 2010 after being laid off from his job after 18 years of hard work. Fernando recently graduated from the Organizing Institute at LATrade-Tech a one year pilot program created by various community organizers in LA. Fernando was also appointed to be URSELA’s Sacramento liaison by our core members. “When I first joined CBE I didn’t know that we could fight for our community by going to talk to our elected officials,” said Fernando of his early involvement with CBE. “…(politicians) talk to you nice when you see them in their office but when it comes down to the vote, they show their true colors. This experience has been life changing for me.”

Read other Fall 2012 newsletter articles.