Assemblymember Rendon and Sam Sachs

Delving into Culture and Investing in Community

As we celebrate the holidays, I want to thank our community for the sacrifices we’ve made to keep each other safe. Being unable to hug friends has been so difficult and catching up on Zoom just isn’t the same, but our precautions are especially important during flu season. I encourage you to get your flu shot and continue taking steps to stay healthy.

I also want to thank local veterans for their service. Back in April, Lakewood honored WWII veteran, Sam Sachs, with a drive-by parade. Sam was touched, saying, “I don’t have words to express how I feel in here,” putting his hand to his heart. Although we’re apart for Veteran’s Day, I encourage you to express your appreciation because it can go a long way.

For this November R-Guide, we’re featuring my recent discussion with artists about intersectionality in Latino cultures and stories about the work that a local business and nonprofits are doing in our community.

SELA Collaborative

SELA Collaborative: Creating a Civically Engaged Community

Nonprofit services that empower our community are more important now than ever. From food deliveries to virtual education programs and civic engagement campaigns, the nonprofits that make up the SELA Collaborative are continuing their outreach during the pandemic.

The SELA Collaborative is a network of organizations working together to strengthen the nonprofit sector and increase civic engagement in Southeast LA. Founded in 2011, the SELA Collaborative is comprised of twelve core organizations: Alliance for a Better Community, AltaMed Health Services, Council of Mexican Federations in North America (COFEM), East Los Angeles College, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Families in Schools, First 5 LA, Hub Cities, Human Services Association, Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA, Southeast Community Development Corporation, and the Southeast Rio Vista YMCA.

“During COVID, SELA nonprofits learned to quickly balance responding to direct community needs, while also encouraging 2020 Census participation,” said Dr. Wilma Franco, Executive Director of the SELA Collaborative. “This has been no easy feat as nonprofits, along with other regional stakeholders, learned to swiftly and creatively engage with the community remotely.”

I’ve been very impressed with efforts by SELA Collaborative member, First 5 LA, in providing online activities for kids and families such as virtual museum visits, story time, and arts and crafts activities. In addition, East Los Angeles College recently hosted Chromebook distributions and census events.

The SELA Collaborative also partnered with local nonprofits to disburse $1.6 million in grant funding. This program, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, assists undocumented residents most impacted by COVID-19.

So many people in our community are facing unprecedented challenges. I’m incredibly thankful for the continued dedication of the SELA Collaborative in building nonprofit capacity and creating a more civically engaged community.

 

Art Talk: Latinx Heritage Month

Art Talk: Latinx Heritage Month

How do you define your culture? It’s a complex question. My culture is influenced by my Latino heritage, but I also identify with LA and American culture. Last month, I had an interesting discussion with LA artists -- Edlin Lopez, John “Zender” Estrada, and Jacqueline Valenzuela -- about culture, intersectionality, and art.

Edlin, a South Gate artist and curator for SELA Arts Fest and its virtual gallery, Open Walls, is a first generation Mexican-American. “A lot of my artwork really encapsulates the two identities. They exist as a dichotomy,” she explained. 

Jacqueline identifies with her Mexican-American heritage, as well as the punk and lowrider subcultures. Her experience seeing old cars while growing up on Whittier Boulevard inspired her to paint women in lowrider culture.

For John, known by his muralist name, “Zender”, culture is a key part of his work. “A big debate was, ‘What is Chicano?’ It opens up Pandora’s Box. Now, people are having those conversations about Latinx,” he added.  

‘Latinx’ often incites mixed reactions. Jacqueline mentioned that ‘Latinx’ is inclusive of gender nonconforming individuals. “I don’t personally identify with Latinx, but I use it when describing groups because you don’t know how people identify,” she said. 

The discussion shifted to how terms like Latino and Hispanic often marginalize communities. Edlin said, “It doesn’t encompass the complexities of the cultures in Latin America.” Jacqueline chimed in explaining, “For me, it’s being aware that the language is a colonizer language.” 

The artists often feel marginalized as Latino artists. John described his experience in art school, “They said you’re not an American artist. You’re a Chicano artist,” he remembered.

The complexities of culture can’t be defined in one word. Culture is a conglomerate of identities that influence how we see the world. You can watch this Art Talk on my Instagram rendon63rd.

 

DNA Salon

DNA Salon: Giving Our Community More than Beauty

At DNA Salon, the experience is about more than a hairstyle. It’s an environment of support for clients and the larger community. The salon’s co-founder and owner, Alisa Macias, said, “Community service is a way for us to express our gratitude and lift up others so we can all grow. There is room for everyone to succeed!”

This Lakewood salon has faced numerous challenges in reopening, including COVID-19 safety requirements and the retirement of Diana, co-founder, and owner of the salon. “Diana, my business partner, friend, and the visionary behind our service mission became physically compromised and was no longer able to work behind the chair,” said Alisa.

Despite these challenges, DNA Salon continues to invest in aspiring stylists. They’ve expanded their DNA Incubator program, which provides new stylists with opportunities to develop both professionally and personally.

This month, the salon is also hosting its 3rd annual Diapers and Dreft (hypoallergenic baby laundry detergent) drive with Su Casa, a local nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence. “Diana and I are both survivors of domestic violence and Su Casa does an outstanding job of caring for victims of domestic violence in a holistic way,” explained Alisa.

By creating a culture of generosity and empowerment, the founders of DNA Salon are giving their clients more than beauty. They’re caring for the community at a critical time. If you’d like to donate to the Diapers and Dreft drive, DNA Salon is open for drop-offs Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. For donations and/or appointments outside these hours, please call 562-804-4440 or visit dnasalonconnect.com.

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