January R-Guide

January R-Guide

As we progress in fighting the pandemic, 2021 offers new hope. One of my hopes this new year is to improve our community’s health. This goal not only involves addressing COVID-19, but also environmental justice.

Our community has historically been left behind when it comes to environmental issues. Pollution is common, and parks and trees are scarce. Back in 2013, SELA activists brought these concerns to me, and we began work on the Lower LA River Revitalization Plan.

This plan includes multiple projects along the lower LA River, including the Rio Hondo Confluence Area Project. The project will comprise of a SELA cultural arts center and multiple parks including river parks, bike and walking paths, soccer fields, and open play areas and recreation spaces.

The Lower LA River Plan is not just designed for the community, but by the community. We’re working with our community members, environmental groups, and other stakeholders in developing this plan. You can find more updates and information on how to get involved on my social media.

This edition of the R-Guide is also about hope in our community. Local organizations, Healthy Active Streets and Lakewood Family YMCA, and SELA small businesses work every day to improve our community through activism, service, and art.

Healthy Active Streets

Healthy Active Streets

Our community has long fought for environmental justice. We've worked to address pollution, water contamination, and the jet fuel dump over SELA last year. This fight also includes mobility. That's why Healthy Active Streets (HAS) mobilizes community members through biking events, community workshops, and advocacy.

Based in Long Beach, HAS is a grassroots organization that dismantles economic and cultural barriers preventing communities from active transportation. "Historically, active transportation advocacy has left black, brown, youth, indigenous, immigrants, and POC (people of color) out of the conversation," said Danny Gamboa, founder of HAS, "I strive to see more representation in these spaces."

HAS uses a variety of strategies to mobilize participants, including its bike riding and safety lessons, community bike rides, and bike share program. The organization also trains youth in bike construction. "As bike mechanics, our youth provide free services to other community members; further increasing access to biking as a mode of alternative transportation, recreation, and exercise," said Danny. In addition, HAS advocates for better sidewalks and neighborhood beautification.

As an advocacy organization, HAS trains community members in civic engagement by engaging them in municipal public transportation planning and legislation. In 2019, HAS advocates visited the State Capitol to support AB 392, Assemblymember Shirley Weber's bill to limit police use-of-force.

HAS also organizes "ghost bike" memorials throughout Southern California at sites where cyclists were killed. "Ghost bikes serve as a visual cue to drivers to be mindful of vulnerable populations using the roads as well," explained Danny.

Recently, HAS begun hosting a virtual Neighborhood Empowerment Workshop Series on topics ranging from housing and jobs to community health. HAS continues to play an important role in health, equity, and empowerment in our community. You can learn more about HAS at healthyactivestreets.org or follow them on Instagram.


Lakewood Family YMCA

Lakewood Family YMCA

While much of the world has stopped, the need for youth programs has accelerated at Lakewood Family YMCA. The nonprofit continues to safely serve the community, especially vulnerable low-income families with children and seniors.

Lakewood Family YMCA has transformed its before- and after-school care into a camp for the children of essential workers. The organization also offers online fitness classes and Social Hour Zoom calls for senior members. At the start of the school year, Lakewood Family YMCA began its new Y Camp Academy to address the need for online school support and to ensure kids had a fun and safe space to thrive and stay on track with their virtual learning. "We wanted to maintain a sense of community for our members, specifically our seniors who have built lasting relationships at the Y and for our community's children who rapidly needed school support", said Stacey Valdez, Lakewood YMCA's Associate Executive Director.

Additionally, Lakewood Family YMCA converted a turf area into an outdoor functional fitness space, where 50 outdoor group exercise classes are held each week. They are also offering aquatic activities. "Our aqua classes and lap swim have been thriving. We have partnered with the City of Lakewood, giving us access to the Pat McCormick pool which has provided needed lap lanes, space for swim lessons, and aquafit classes," said Stacey.

Lakewood Family YMCA is providing a sense of normalcy to people in the community of all ages. "Many people come to the Y for healthy living, but they stay because of the sense of community," Stacy said. Through their enriching programs and innovation, YMCA Lakewood continues to create community during the pandemic.


Small Business Spotlight

Livin' Creatin'

Our community is home to many talented vendors, including Livin' Creatin'. This vendor combines illustration and lettering to create personalized stickers and prints. We asked the owner of Livin' Creatin', Nadine Melano about her inspiration and the SELA art community.

Q: What inspired you to start Livin' Creatin'?
A: "In 2018, I started Livin' Creatin' as a way to express myself, send positive messages through my art and used it as healthy outlet from the struggles I was going through as a chronically ill young adult. Livin' Creatin' started as a message about enjoying living and creating through the journey. Then my family, friends, and people from my community found it inspiring and motivated me to go further. I decided to attend art events and absolutely loved it. That's when I decided to create an online shop for LivinCreatin, and I hope to continue moving forward in my journey."

Q: What's your favorite product and why?
A: "My favorite product would be my print and stickers, they express the positive messages I try and send in a fun way for everyone to enjoy, look at, and feel inspired."

Q: Why are events like SELA Arts Fest important to vendors and the community?
A: "As an aspiring artist and crafter I love what I do, but growth and exposure is not easy, which is why art events like SELA Arts Fest are so important. I'm a first-generation college student, and like many other artists, we work hard towards our future in different ways. Art is something we love and strive to do more of and appreciate art events like SELA Arts Fest that help support that. We find inspiration in each other and that builds us stronger; it helps us see our strengths through art and look beyond our struggles."

For more info, follow Livin' Creatin' on Instagram.

Livin' Creatin'

Valiant Vixen Art

Another SELA vendor, Valiant Vixen Art, creates surrealist stickers, art prints, and jewelry. Valiant Vixen Art owner, Jessica Lopez, is inspired by cartoons, dark surrealism, and the work Edgar Allen Poe.

Q: Where do you find creative inspiration?
A: "I feel that nature, poetry, personal experiences, and questioning life overall have definitely contributed to my creativity. Other times, I just get random creativeness with things around me. For example, I was eating an ice cream cone one time and I saw the shape of a little cartoony face in the ice cream. That led me to create my cartoony digital design, "Mr. Vanilla." My creativity can be dormant for months and then out of nowhere, I get a lightning bolt of inspiration and willingness to create."

Q: Why Valiant Vixen?
A: "It's a reminder for myself. I want to be brave and determined all the time and some days I feel like I am! I wanted a name that stood for and represents the different parts of my character. Vixen can have different definitions, but for me, it is defined as someone who is spirited. I feel that when creating and coming up with new things, I always have this flow of wanting to do better for myself. Overall, I am glad that I chose the name because I feel that there's a lot more meaning to the name now than just a description of who I am."

Q: Why is art important to our community?
A: "It can bring people together while sharing stories. Individuals can connect with others and share their own experiences. Art is a form of storytelling and the message behind each painting, sculpture, or any piece of art can make an impact on individuals for a lifetime."

For more info, follow Valiant Vixen Art on Instagram.

Valiant Vixen Art

(Photos at far left, top to bottom: Fun sticker from Livin' Creatin; Valiant Vixen Art earrings made in collaboration with Muy Mimi jewelry)

Spring classes - virtual and outdoor

Employment resource fair

SELA Arts Fest

Maywood small business grant program

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