Crossroads: Intersections of Los Angeles' Energy, Environmental, Housing & Racial Justice Movements

About the Series

We live in a country of entrenched racial inequity in energy, environmental, housing, policing, and carceral landscapes. More and more frequently, conversations about the intentional creation of these inequities are reaching broad audiences and capturing national media attention. However, discussion of the connections between different systems of racial injustice are far less common those which address discrete justice issues.

This April, the Sustainability Office, Office for Institutional Diversity and Equity, Department of African and African American Studies, and Irving Institute are offering a lecture and workshop series entitled "Crossroads: Intersections of Los Angeles' Energy, Environmental, Housing & Racial Justice Movements." This series will feature academics, grassroots activists, lawyers, local government officials, and nonprofit organizations, and will dive deep into intersecting landscapes of racial injustice in Los Angeles County. The series will focus on three interconnected landscapes:

  • Housing resources: residential segregation, and the impact of this on policing, education, and infrastructure zoning and development
  • Policing: including police brutality and mass incarceration
  • Environmental racism: including fossil fuel refining infrastructure, utilities, air pollution, and public health

Cosponsors: Environmental Studies, Dept. of Geography, Dept. of Sociology, and the the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Tuesdays and Thursdays (March 30-April 29) from 1:15-2:15 p.m. ET

Schedule of Events

Register for the series via this link. Attend as many (or as few) events as you like.

Tuesday, March 30: Lecture: Redlining, The Creation of Los Angeles Neighborhoods, and Lasting Impacts on Communities of Color, Prof. Michael Lens, UCLA [Scroll down to read about the talk and speaker.]
April 1: No event scheduled
April 6: No event scheduled
April 8: Talk and Workshop: Toxic Impacts of the Exide Lead Battery Recycling Plant, Laura Cortez and Paola Dela Cruz-Pérez,  East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice [Scroll down to read about the event and speakers]
April 13: Panel: Housing for ALL, Inner City Struggle, Compton Tenants Union, Reclaiming Our Homes, YIMBY Action [Scroll down to read about the event and participants]
April 15: Lecture: Environmental Racism and the Creation of Los Angeles Infrastructure, Prof. Juan De Lara, USC. Moderated by Prof. Darius Scott, Dartmouth
April 20: Talk and Q&A: Sustainability, Affordability, and Health Impacts of the Los Angeles Electric Grid, Nancy Sutley, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). 
April 22: Panel: Beyond Policing: Centering Coalition Against Police Power, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Dignity and Power Now, Felon to Freeman. Moderated by Prof. Ivy Schweitzer, Dartmouth.
April 27: TBD
April 29: Talk and Q&A: A "Toxic Tour" of Los Angeles' Oil Refineries, Communities for a Better Environment

Tuesday, April 13 | 1:15-2:15 p.m.

Housing for ALL Panel

About the Talk

Los Angeles, California is in the midst of a historic housing crisis, brought on by decades of redlining and other policies of housing discrimination, gentrification, skyrocketing housing costs, and resultant homelessness and displacement of communities of color. Many activists and grassroots organizations are fighting to reverse this trend.  In this panel, we will hear from community organizers who have responded to this crisis in their neighborhood and why our different justice movements need to fight for collective well-being. Using tactics such as fighting for tenants' rights, reducing gang violence, resourcing public education, improving housing supply, and reclaiming vacant homes, these Los Angeles and California-based groups are building stronger communities and fighting for housing rights for ALL.

About the Participants

Compton Tenants Union 
The Compton Tenants Union is a community-led, neighbor-to-neighbor organization that believes that housing is a human right and that human rights must be fought for and defended. Together as tenants, renters and allies we work to ensure that our rights are respected, and that renters have the tools to defend themselves from displacement and harassment. We believe that the only way to create lasting change for Compton residents is through community organizing, building people power, and demanding the changes that we are all willing to fight for. 

Inner City Struggle
At InnerCity Struggle, we believe everyone deserves to live in a safe, healthy and thriving neighborhood. When we began organizing in 1994, our Eastside residents identified a myriad of urgent concerns affecting their lives: gang violence, under-resourced schools, poor economic prospects and a lack of access to adequate health care. As we began our journey to fight for a stronger Eastside, our residents and youth identified public education as the most pressing issue.  After many years on the frontlines of public education reform, significant victories under our belt, our residents knew that if we wanted to transform our neighborhoods, we needed to become a multi-issue organization. Since then, we've joined state-wide coalitions to build a stronger democracy, and are beginning our work advancing justice in community development.

YIMBY is a network of pro-housing activists fighting for more inclusive housing policies. We drive policy change to increase the supply of housing at all levels and bring down the cost of living in opportunity-rich cities and towns. We envision an integrated society where every person has access to a safe, affordable home near jobs, services, and opportunity.

Reclaiming Our Homes
Impacted by the housing crisis, and feeling even more urgency in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, we are reclaiming vacant houses owned by the state to fight for housing as a human right. We the Reclaimers are calling on the city and state to immediately use all vacant properties to house people. We need all levels of government to make a massive investment in public and social housing so that everyone has a home during this housing and public health crisis.
Together we can defend, take back, and rebuild our community!

April 8 | 1:15 - 2:15 p.m.

Toxic Impacts of the Exide Lead Battery Recycling Plant

About the Talk
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ) started and continues to be a community-led movement that addresses the disproportionate and avoidable health impacts to neighborhoods in Los Angeles created by white supremacist systems and perpetuated by policy. This event will include an intersectional approach to addressing environmental racism, including the trajectory of the Exide​shutdown and looking to community-based solutions along with policy advocacy for community leadership. 

About the Presenters
Laura Cortez (She/Ella/They) is a member, organizer, and Co-Executive Director at East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and a lifelong Bell Gardens resident. Laura received a Bachelor's degree in Spanish from CSU, Los Angeles and her Master of Arts degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Community Development from CSU, Long Beach. She has been an Spanish-English interpreter since 2010, and began organizing since 2014. Laura's focus is to work toward equity that improves the lives of families of color through community-led leadership in the Eastside, Southeast, & Long Beach cities for current and future generations.

Paola Dela Cruz-Pérez (She/Her/Ella) was born and raised in South Los Angeles and moved to Compton when she was a teen. She began her organizing as a youth by coordinating mutual aid efforts with and for unhoused and housing insecure families. Through these experiences, she became politicized about the systems that perpetuate injustices. She went on to earn her Bachelor's in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she deepened her understanding for community healing, community organizing, and community power building. Paola continues organizing in her hood through East Yard's Southeast LA membership spaces, Compton Tenants Union, and Compton Rising. She is passionate about engaging and equipping youth with the necessary tools to fight against environmental racism, white supremacy, capitalism, and other systems of oppression. Paola loves being in and around water and is an Aztec Mexica danzante.


(This registration link will give you access to all the talks in the series! If you registered for a previous talk in this series, no need to register again, just use the link from last time!)

March 30 at 1:15 p.m. (ET)

Redlining, The Creation of Los Angeles Neighborhoods, and Lasting Impacts on Communities of Color

Racial exclusion in housing has long been a feature of US cities, with devastating consequences, particularly for Black families and communities. While the racial evolution of Los Angeles differs from other cities in many ways, various forms of racial exclusion are a hallmark of Los Angeles's past, and have evolved to race neutral forms of exclusion in the present. This talk will briefly summarize this history and link this legacy to continuing forms of housing exclusion that persist and contribute to housing insecurity, homelessness, and gentrification in Los Angeles today.  View a recording of this event


Michael Lens
Michael Lens

About the Speaker: Michael Lens is Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, and Associate Faculty Director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. Professor Lens's research and teaching explore the potential of public policy to address housing market inequities that lead to negative outcomes for low-income families and communities of color. This research involves housing interventions such as subsidies, tenant protections, and production. Ongoing research projects focus on the neighborhood context of eviction, housing supply in California, and a book project that examines fifty years of neighborhood change in Black neighborhoods following the 1968 Fair Housing Act.