South LA voices and views at USC

Intersections has offered a platform to extend USC’s Visions and Voices three-part series examining community building in and around USC and South Los Angeles. The events focus on movements and organizations that are responding to the disparities and injustices that structure life in South LA. Their daily leadership, sacrifice and creativity helps bind South L.A., catalyzing progressive and sustained neighborhood change. In light of USC’s recent expansion and potential impact on our neighbors, it is crucial that we take stock of the university’s role in the civic and community life beyond our walls, and understand the significant work, service and fellowship already being cultivated by community members and institutions.

This online space allows for continued sharing and conversation on these topics.


Communication Faculty Organizers for the project:

Alison Trope is a Clinical Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Trope received her Ph.D. in Critical Studies from the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California in 1999. She has taught in the Critical Studies department in the School of Cinema-Television and currently teaches a range of courses in the Annenberg School for Communication. Her research and teaching interests include media history, media exhibition, popular culture, visual culture, gender representation and museum studies.

Robeson Taj Frazier researches black political culture and popular culture, globalization and cross-cultural traffic, and African diasporic intellectual history, with a specific focus on the intersections between African American culture and other cultures, especially 20th and 21st century China.  Before coming to USC, Frazier taught at New York University and the City University of New York.  He received his B.A. in International Relations and African American Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and his Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies from the University of California Berkeley. His research has been funded by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, USC’s Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences Initiative, and the Ford Foundation.

George Villanueva, Ph.D. is a native Angeleno born and raised in the intersecting spaces of East Hollywood, Koreatown, and the Temple-Beverly corridor (now Historic Filipinotown). He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, with a research focus on civic engagement, spatial justice, and sustainable urban development.

Civic Action and Community Voice (October 9th)

Alberto Retana is the executive vice president at Community Coalition, an organization fighting on the frontlines to improve the conditions of South L.A. and advance unity and solidarity among South L.A.’s residents. Throughout his tenure at Community Coalition, Retana has led key campaigns that have pushed for reforms in schools and led to major victories in social justice and education equity.

Francisco Ortega is the immigration-policy advisor and South Los Angeles policy advisor for the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. He helps facilitate community access to local government by empowering historically underrepresented, special-needs communities with the knowledge, skills and leadership training to participate effectively. He also helps to establish and maintain neighborhood councils throughout the city, and works with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment to help make each council inclusive and effective.

Erin Aubry Kaplan is a journalist and columnist who writes about African American life in Los Angeles. She was op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times from 2005 to 2007, and was the first black op-ed columnist in the newspaper’s history. Currently, she is a contributing editor to the op-ed section of the LA Times, and was a staff writer and columnist for the LA Weekly and New Times Los Angeles. She is a regular contributor to many publications, including, Essence, Black Enterprise,BlackAmericaWeb, Ms. and the Independent, and is a columnist for make/shiftmagazine.

Sahra Sulaiman is a documentary photographer, researcher and writer. Her journalism, as Streetsblog L.A.’s Communities Editor for Boyle Heights and South LA, and volunteer work with at-risk teens are organized around fighting for South L.A. residents’ safe access to streets. Her writing and photography also introduce readers to the unique grassroots efforts of South L.A. residents, community leaders and local organizations.

Food, recreation and the arts of social justice (February 26th)

Neelam Sharma is the executive director of Community Services Unlimited, Inc.(CSU), an incubator for grassroots work and high-impact community programs in Los Angeles. Sharma has been responsible for the creation and development of CSU’s food-justice education and training project, The Community Food Village, and its social enterprise, The Village Market Place. Sharma also oversees CSU’s involvement in local and state policy issues and has represented CSU as a founding member of the Healthy School Food Coalition, the Los Angeles Food Justice Network and the California Food and Justice Coalition.

Karen Mack is the founder and executive director of LA Commons, an organization dedicated to promoting Los Angeles’s diverse neighborhoods through locally based, interactive artistic and cultural programming. LA Commons’s programming has included numerous cultural tours and interventions in the neighborhoods of South L.A. Mack is president of the board of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI) and an appointed member of the Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.

JP Partrida is the founder of the Los Ryderz Bike Club, a cycling movement and gang-intervention program that works with youth in South L.A. Along with their partner bike club, East Side Riders, they form the United Riders of South L.A. Los Ryderz works with other bike clubs to educate youth about bicycles and to organize bicycle rides that allow youth to safely explore their South L.A. neighborhood.

Ben Caldwell is the founder and director of Kaos Network, a community-based multimedia training, production, screening space and arts center in the Leimert Park district of South L.A. Kaos Network offers community members an intimate space for discussions about the role of media and the arts in communal expression and transformation. Furthermore, by training generations of African American youth to creatively seize the means of image production, Caldwell has empowered the community to resist the onslaught of overwhelmingly negative images in the mass media.

South LA Walking Tour (March 7th)

Karen Mack of LA Commons will lead a dynamic, culturally engaged walking tour of South Los Angeles, highlighting public art projects that validate the importance of local narratives and encourage ties between people and places.

The first version of this post was published October 10, 2014.

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