The daylong summit featuring seminars, inspiring stories and speeches, an on-site tenant help-clinic, an Anti-Gentrification Free Store and music, was held at Audubon Middle School.
Purposed to provide actionable strategies/tools to fight gentrification and promote community wealth building, the event was the brainchild of Crenshaw Subway Coalition founder, Damien Goodman.
“We’re coming together,” said Goodman. “We’re asserting our rights to space…to affordable housing…to thrive in the community with a model of wealth building for us. There is a value system they have in this community that is much greater than just their home values. They value the community they built—the community many of them had to fight to get into and maintain in the face of divestment and neglect from the public and private sector; and the community they fight to advance now in the face of a gentrification tsunami that is trying to push them out.
Breakout sessions included Rent Stabilization Ordinances, Just Cause Evictions, & Right of First Refusal, Fighting Wall Street Landlords, Real Estate Speculation, & Other Corporate Takeovers of Housing, Community Planning and Zoning, Community Land Trusts, Cooperatives and wealth transfers.
Residents like Merci Kassa found the summit to be beneficial.
“There are a lot of practical things I was not aware of,” Kassa stated. “People are not aware that they have rights or they know they have rights, they just don’t know what they are because they’re being told 20 million different things. I think uplifting and getting behind these organizations that already have the resources and information — just getting that information out to people is what is most needed. Letting people know that they do have a voice and an opportunity to make a difference, and that they have a say in whether they stay in this community or not, regardless of what’s changing.”
Longtime resident Gerri Alexander just wanted to find out about what’s really going on in Leimert Park.
“It’s affecting me where I live with rents going up and people having to relocate,” Alexander reported. “I’d been hearing about gentrification but I didn’t know what it was all about.”
Convening groups of the historic summit included AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment - Los Angeles, Black Community Clergy & Labor Alliance, CDTech, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, Eviction Defense Network, Fannie Lou Hamer Institute, and Los Angeles Community Action Network.
For Goodmon and his partner organizations, Leimert Park has increasingly become a center of resistance.
“People are legitimately angry because it [gentrification] implies that we were never good enough and we only become good enough when people of the pale persuasion start walking their dogs down the street.”
Goodman was particularly pleased with the composition of the attendees.
“Sixty percent of the room was black, but the rest was brown and yellow coming together,” Goodmon observed. “If I’m a powerful person trying to gentrify the community, I’d be a little bit scared today.”
For Goodman and summit organizers, this is just a first start, a precursor to 2018, which he believes will be a big year for anti-gentrification efforts.
“Now, we’ve got to roll up our sleeves,” Goodman states. “We’ve asserted our rights. Now let’s see if we can advance some of this stuff. A big part of it is political accountability. We need to have our elected officials recognize that we value a different way. That we want to see improvement but for us, that means the same neighbors, and we are willing to go to the ballot box to assert our rights be it rent control or repealing Costa Hawkins [Rental Act] at the statewide level. We’re willing to do that if our elected officials don’t engage in strategies that are necessary for us to stay in our homes and keep our communities working class black and brown.”