The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that provides networking opportunities for those in the real estate community, hosted a panel discussion in late September about opportunities for social change in our industry. While the conversation wasn’t real estate related, racial injustice does affect the industry. SCDF invited several members of the Los Angeles business community to share their views on how positive change can be advanced and what some businesses are doing to champion this cause.
Tre Borden, principal of Tre Borden Co., a company focused on building creative communities, served as a moderator for panelists from LA Mas, 2nd Call, Homeboy Industries and ACE Mentor Program LA/OC. Borden began the conversation by asking how panelists have adapted their organizations to support racial justice over the last six months.
Feeding and Healing So Cal
Homeboy Industries is considered one of the front runners in an organization that is committed to pushing social change. The organization continues to rehabilitate former gang members and felons which has been its mission for the last 30 years. In fact, fifty percent of its staff are former clients, which lends a great deal of credibility to its mission.
“We can't rely on government programs or any of the foundations. The business community needs to take on this responsibility of creating jobs and providing good jobs because that's how we make long term structural change,” said Thomas Vozzo, Homeboy’s CEO.
The organization is also providing food for those struggling during the pandemic. The food program, which has served thousands of seniors, now has a city contract.
“So not only are we keeping people working but we're also feeding people at the same time,” Vozzo said.
In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, LA Mas, an organization that designs initiatives to promote neighborhood resilience, has narrowed its mission to support individuals living in Long Beach, South LA and East LA rather than the entire LA Region. LA Mas has a diverse leadership team and supports working-class communities of color, explained Elizabeth Timme, co-executive director.
“We have started feeding 700 residents of northeast Los Angeles, most explicitly in Elysian Valley,” she said, adding that her staff will complete anti-racist training in the next few weeks.
Skipp Townsend, executive director for 2nd Call, an organization that offers parenting, anger management, domestic violence and re-entry programs, also began food distribution in South Los Angeles. 2nd call hopes the program will began the healing process between Black and Brown residents of the area.
Backing the Next Generation
The ACE Mentor Program LA/OC supports youth with after-school classes and scholarships because it believes that higher education is a strategic way of changing the lives of the next generation. Ricardo Zendejas, mentor and board member for the organization, said they were able to adapt their program into a virtual environment during the pandemic. ACE annually serves about 10,000 students of which about two-thirds are minorities. The program has awarded approximately $20 million in renewable scholarships over the course of 26 years.
“I went through the program back in 2003 as a senior in high school and I've got the program to thank for staying with me throughout college,” Zendejas said. “I got my undergraduate degree at UCLA, my master's at Stanford, and throughout the whole program the sponsor companies provided internships.”
In summary, you can make Southern California a more prosperous place by supporting scholarship programs, donating food to those in need or creating jobs that will provide long-term structural change.
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