Saturday, October 17, 2015: Los Angeles. Union de Vecinos and People Organized for WEstside Renewal (POWER) launched an unprecedented west side/east side collaboration of communities, resources, and staff at the historic Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights. Both organizations have been working with low income communities in Los Angeles for 20 years to fight displacement, preserve public and rent controlled housing, fight for better education, reclaim neighborhoods, and fight for environmental justice, to name a few. The collaboration is a resources and best practices approach to addressing the problems facing struggling communities.
Although located at opposite ends of the city, the challenges facing east and west LA are often the same. Places like Boyle Heights and Maywood, and Culver City and Venice, where Union de Vecinos and POWER work, respectively, have come under threat from private interests, criminalization of the poor, and gentrification. To push back against these forces, Union de Vecinos and POWER are working together using a successful model of community engagement. Their model for organizing won a Best Practices award in 2000 from the Huairou Commission of the United Nations! Through an in-depth process of analysis, organizing and action, both organizations will work to put power back in the hands of these neighborhoods.
Through the collaboration, w.e.LA, Union de Vecinos and POWER will organize and grow their membership base of more than 500 Angelenos into a popular movement. It will also enable better coordination on a local and city-wide level as we fight for a universal right to housing and a right to healthy & stable neighborhoods. Co-Director Elizabeth Blaney of Union de Vecinos said of the partnership, “The collaboration (w.e.LA) is part of a much larger vision - create a movement in the east and west of Los Angeles that generates two waves that move toward the center, galvanizing and organizing struggling communities to find a voice in a changing city.” Said Bill Przylucki, Executive Director at POWER, “w.e.LA is a response to the marginalization and displacement suffered by the poor, immigrants, young, elderly, and the disadvantaged throughout Los Angeles. In the east and west parts of LA, including north and south, impoverished communities are connected by a lived experience and a shared struggle for economic independence, stable neighborhoods, and a better future for their children. w.e.LAis about organizing and building power together with our communities for our communities.”