South LA residents discuss Trayvon verdict and next steps to move forward

The same day that President Barack Obama addressed the state of race relations in the United States and less than a week after George Zimmerman was acquitted on self-defense grounds for killing the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the local nonprofit Community Coalition hosted a neighborhood reunion called “Our Sons Matter” to discuss reactions to the verdict and develop next steps to move forward.

The reunion, held at Community Coalition’s headquarters, was highly emotional and served two important purposes: on the one hand, it was a place where people could speak their minds, express their feelings and heal their wounds; on the other hand, it was also a brainstorming session where people provided ideas on what they can do as a community to react to the recent acquittal.

In order to give everyone a chance to participate and contribute their thoughts, the neighbors who assisted at the event were separated into groups from around eight to ten people. Each group, led by a moderator, had approximately 20 minutes to communicate their thoughts and formulate suggestions on how to move ahead and address the situation.

When this was done, the groups shared their suggestions. Changing state and local gun laws such as “Stand Your Ground” was one of the ideas that most resonated with the participants. Coincidentally, this was also one of the ideas proposed by President Obama on Friday. He said he thought it would be useful to examine certain laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they encourage the kind of altercations and confrontations that were seen in the Florida case.

“I just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws,” said President Obama.

Another important idea proposed during the meeting was that it is necessary to improve the relationship between the community and the police. President Obama also addressed this issue and suggested that it is important to work with law enforcement to reduce racial profiling.

During his speech, Mr. Obama said that mayors, governors and the Justice Department should “work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.”

A few other ideas that community members came up with included the importance of inspiring civic engagement as well as creating a sense of self-worth among the community. Along similar lines, President Obama said he was thinking of ways to empower African American young men.

“There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement,” President Obama said. “And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”

We Matter

Toward the end of the community gathering, participants were encouraged to share pictures of someone they love that matters to them and explain why that person has been so important in their life. This intimate, moving and heartwarming moment symbolized the unity of the community. Residents are standing together and looking ahead to the future with hope.


South LA residents create solutions to provide healthy food options

IMG_1430July 12 was a happy day for residents of the King Estates neighborhood in South L.A. Three weeks after the Ralphs supermarket on Western Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard closed, community members of the local nonprofit, Community Coalition and Community Services Unlimited opened “Fresh Fridays” Produce Stand so that neighbors would have a place to get fresh fruits and vegetables.

The opening took place on the corner of 39th Street and Western Avenue, in the parking lot of Century Market, a liquor store that just three years ago was the target of a protest by residents for being a public nuisance. The store, which has since worked to maintain community standards and meet city ordinances, has agreed to host the produce stand every Friday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. [Read more…]

Newly elected city attorney meets with South LA residents

Mike Feuer

City Attorney Mike Feuer speaking at a South L.A. meeting.

Many Americans will remember June 20 as the night when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company won their second consecutive NBA championship. South Los Angeles hopes to remember this date as a symbolic moment, in which a new and productive relationship was developed with the city attorney`s office.

Last night, over 100 South L.A. residents attended a town hall meeting organized by Community Coalition at its South L.A. headquarters, to meet the newly elected Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer. The high level of energy and the eagerness to let Mr. Feuer better understand their issues and concerns clearly demonstrated that residents are hoping that the new city attorney –who will take office on July 1– will help to improve their community’s quality of life.

Feuer understands that his office will have to improve its performance in several areas. “If the city attorney were doing his job properly, the playgrounds and the pathways to school for our kids would be safe. If the city attorney were on the job, prostitution would be gone and the businesses that we choose to site in our neighborhood would be those we actually want in our community,” he said.    [Read more…]