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Becoming a Neighborhood Saver: Engaging the Community in Los Angeles
Unformatted Document Text:  12 soon eroded. Miguel explained his frustrations with “activist groups of white people”: “People come in and they never look at the bills and see how much it costs to run the place. At some point we have to see this as an economic venture and not just an activist venture, and look at why we have the space and what it takes to keep it up. And I’m going to say, I see it as a class issue and a race issue, because I see many activist groups of white people in the space who give nothing to the space.” Miguel was most vocal about these accusations, which I first heard openly voiced when Winston St. was looking for a new location. The closing of their first place seemed to amplify tensions that were already brewing: “What I am most worried about is how we are going to finance this space, because right now we are not making it. And if we want to go on without grants, we are going to have to figure out a way to do this. I’m going to be honest here, because I think that I should be honest. I see a lot of people using the space who have no idea how much it takes to keep the place up. And some people come in and use it and they have nice jobs that they can fall back onto, and they forget that there are people who are relying the space.” The issue “concluded” with all of the activists eventually leaving the group, including all of the white people (except myself). While organizers explained these exits as proof of activist’s lack of commitment, the activists were upset at being accused of having little long-term commitment. All participants explained the schisms within the group as a conflict between “activists” and “organizer.” ACTIVISM AS A POLITICAL LIABILITY Although participants understood differences between categories of membership as being grounded in demographic features, divisions between activists and organizers were far from straightforward matters. The line between activists and organizers was blurry. At best, the definitions that activists and organizers gave to each other were distorted caricatures. For example, while participants saw activists as “white” and “middle or upper class” while organizers were “Latino” and “working class,” Marie – an activist – was a Latina, born in

Authors: Glass, Pepper.
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soon eroded.  Miguel explained his frustrations with “activist groups of white people”:
“People come in and they never look at the bills and see how much it costs to 
run the place.  At some point we have to see this as an economic venture and not just 
an activist venture, and look at why we have the space and what it takes to keep it up. 
And I’m going to say, I see it as a class issue and a race issue, because I see many 
activist groups of white people in the space who give nothing to the space.”
Miguel   was   most   vocal   about   these   accusations,   which   I   first   heard   openly   voiced   when 
Winston St. was looking for a new location.  The closing of their first place seemed to amplify 
tensions that were already brewing:
“What  I am  most  worried  about  is how  we are   going  to finance  this space, 
because right now we are not making it.  And if we want to go on without grants, we 
are going to have to figure out a way to do this.  I’m going to be honest here, because I 
think that I should be honest.  I see a lot of people using the space who have no idea 
how much it takes to keep the place up.  And some people come in and use it and they 
have nice jobs that they can fall back onto, and they forget that there are people who 
are relying the space.”
The issue “concluded” with all of the activists eventually leaving the group, including all of the 
white people (except myself).  While organizers explained these exits as proof of activist’s lack 
of   commitment,   the   activists   were   upset   at   being   accused   of   having   little   long-term 
commitment.  All participants explained the schisms within the group as a conflict between 
“activists” and “organizer.”
Although participants understood differences between categories of membership as 
being grounded in demographic features, divisions between activists and organizers were far 
from straightforward matters.  The line between activists and organizers was blurry.  At best, 
the definitions that activists and organizers gave to each other were distorted caricatures.  For 
example,   while   participants   saw   activists   as   “white”   and   “middle   or   upper   class”   while 
organizers were “Latino” and “working class,” Marie – an activist – was a Latina, born in 

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