Visionaries to showcase South LA innovations and activism Feb. 26


This week the University of Southern California will host a lively forum featuring social justice organizations in South Los Angeles.

Panelists Ben Caldwell, of Kaos Network, Karen Mack, of LA Commons, Javier “JP” Partida, of Los Ryderz and Neelam Shara, of Community Services Unlimited, will explore pioneering efforts to mobilize South Los Angeles and improve the quality of life for its community members.

The second in a two-part series, Voices of South LA: Food, Recreation and the Arts as Social Justice, will take place at University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 26 from 6 to 7:30 PM.

Ben Caldwell, founder and director of Kaos Network, has created a space in the Leimert Park neighborhood of South L.A. to teach youth and adults about the “cyber” technology of today. Kaos Network also develops community awareness of negative images of South LA in the media.

Another grass roots visionary, Karen Mack, founder and executive director of LA Commons, creates artistic outdoor art opportunities for youth and professional artists to work together to portray their experiences and stories.

LA Commons’ Trekking LA also hosts tours of South LA’s food and arts with the goal of involving a vast range of Angelenos in South LA life and culture.

Panelist Javier “JP” Partida, founder of the Los Ryderz Bike Club, will talk about how the youth bike excursions he runs through the streets of Watts have helped mobilize youth toward healthy living and away from the lure of gang life.

“The purpose of the club is to prevent the youth in Watts from joining gangs and using drugs,” Partida told Intersections in 2013. Partida described organizing recreational activities to prevent them from joining gangs.

“Some of my kids have to go through the territory of three or four different gangs,” Partida said in 2013. “Although they don’t get beat up when they are in our large pack, I have had a couple of them get to the club after being jumped by gangs in the area.”

Partida said neighborhood youth want to do better or they would not attend the rides.

In terms of outreach to improve community nutrition in South LA, Neelam Sharma, executive director of Community Services Unlimited, Inc, plans to discuss her group’s gardening, farming and food preparation projects, which aim to teach food justice, education and job training.

According to the group’s website, it envisions “equitable, healthful and sustainable communities that are self-reliant, inter-relating and where every individual has the support and resources needed to develop to the fullest capacity.”
One program offer at-risk youth training and mentors in farming, gardening and entrepreneurial skills. In turn, these volunteers learn leadership skills by training volunteers involved in another CSU program, Growing Up Healthy, which educates communities on healthy living and activism pertaining to local food availability in South LA neighborhoods and schools.

The Voices of South LA: Food, Recreation and the Arts as Social Justice session will offer a look into the activism and vision of individuals and organizations from South LA USC’s low-income neighboring communities.

For ticketing information, visit the Voices of South LA: Food, Recreation and the Arts as Social Justice event page.

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