On Monday July 18th I had the pleasure of getting a tour of just some of the work that Crystal Gonzales facilitates in the LA area. We started in South Central LA, and eventually made our way the AFSC's downtown office.
Crystal has worked with youth in South Central to develop, design, and build community gardens. Some may not know that South Central in the largest food desert in the country. There are fast food joints spread out and tons of corner stores with really poor quality food that lacks the nutrients humans need to thrive. The community gardens Crystal organizes around are perfect spaces to begin conversations about building stronger communities. If youth can take a piece of discarded dirt, a chunk of an abandoned lot, and turn it into a thriving, organic, nutritious food producing garden then I suppose they can facilitate other changes they want to see in their communities.
Crystal also brought me to AFSC's downtown office. I was excited to discover that they also do an art contest for youth, and they just happen to have all the pieces up. I did a quick run with my flip cam of all the pieces so if you really want to see each one, be prepared to press pause a lot.
Crystal also brought me to Homegirl Cafe, which is attached to Homeboy industries. I gotta say that touring Homeboy industries had a huge impact on me. The process by which criminalized youth have to go thru to emerge so difficult that most fall through the cracks. I've experienced this first hand, and lost a lot of friends that didn't get out so easy. Homeboy/Homegirl Industies really understands not only the need to rehabilitating the thinking process that keeps us stuck, but also understands that need for direct services. "Nothing stops a bullet like a job" is one of their sayings. Atlanta badly needs something like Homeboy Industries.
I should also mention that Crystal took me by this space called the Metabolic Lab, and I must say they're doing some pretty rad stuff there. If you're in LA, or just visiting, make sure you peep it.
American Friends Service Committee