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Becoming a Neighborhood Saver: Engaging the Community in Los Angeles
Unformatted Document Text:  3 population to generate and participate in their own institutions, governing and protesting. They prided themselves on their connections to the local neighborhood, and they encouraged participation from community members. This focus was in contrast to “activists” who organizers saw as more focused upon radical politics than the local neighborhood and sustaining the organization. As one member said of the Unity Center when describing it to a visitor, “We don’t do activism. We activate people.” Who were these groups organizing? “Community members,” those who fit within a politically strategic category of people (local, Latino, Spanish-speaking, often undocumented families in the neighborhood). Participants sought to organize community members through the various projects at these storefront spaces. These attempts to integrate such diverse peoples were, like many social movements, difficult experiments in reformulating the world. These spaces were an attempt to rewrite history, integrating college educated with the little educated, the professional class with working class, white with Latino, Mexican nationals with United States citizens. Understandably, they met with mixed results. After reviewing previous research upon similar community organizations, I further detail the categories of community members, activists and organizers. I then outline how tensions between activists and organizers were grounded in participants’ limited success at political goals of organizing community members. I argue that the tensions between activists and organizers had as much to do with the goals of these organizations as with participants’ structural categories of race and class. ALTERNATIVE CULTURAL SPACES Researchers upon social movements takes an interest in alternative cultural spaces – locally-based community centers – as they function as “staging areas” in which protest

Authors: Glass, Pepper.
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population to generate and participate in their own institutions, governing and protesting. 
They prided themselves on their connections to the local neighborhood, and they encouraged 
participation   from   community   members.     This   focus   was   in   contrast   to   “activists”   who 
organizers   saw   as   more   focused   upon   radical   politics   than   the   local   neighborhood   and 
sustaining the organization.  As one member said of the Unity Center when describing it to a 
visitor, “We don’t do activism.   We activate people.”   Who were these groups organizing? 
“Community members,” those who fit within a politically strategic category of people (local, 
Latino, Spanish-speaking, often undocumented families in the neighborhood).   Participants 
sought  to   organize   community   members   through   the   various   projects   at   these   storefront 
spaces.   These attempts to integrate such diverse peoples were, like many social movements, 
difficult experiments in reformulating the world.   These spaces were  an attempt to rewrite 
history,   integrating   college   educated   with   the   little   educated,   the   professional   class   with 
working   class,   white   with   Latino,   Mexican   nationals   with   United   States   citizens. 
Understandably, they met with mixed results.
After reviewing previous research upon similar  community organizations,  I further 
detail the categories of community members, activists and organizers.   I then outline how 
tensions between activists and organizers were grounded in participants’ limited success at 
political goals of organizing community members.  I argue that the tensions between activists 
and organizers had as much to do with the goals of these organizations as with participants’ 
structural categories of race and class.
ALTERNATIVE CULTURAL SPACES
Researchers upon social movements takes an interest in alternative cultural spaces – 
locally-based   community   centers   –   as   they   function   as   “staging   areas”   in   which   protest 


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