The Promise of Los Angeles

Posted by Guest Blogger on October 24, 2015

LA2050 is an initiative that invites us all to innovate, imagine and create the future of Los Angeles. Facing History LA has a vision for strengthening the opportunity for youth to shape Los Angeles to be more compassionate, more engaged. Here one teacher shares his experience of this work. If you like what you read, vote for us in the LA2050 competition and share with others! We'd love to give this opportunity to youth from all over Los Angeles.

L.A.' s Youth meet to discuss Los Angeles’ past, present and future

By Jonathan Lego, Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School, Ethnic Studies Teacher

Representatives from multiple Los Angeles Facing History & Ourselves schools met October 3, 2015 to discuss the changing landscape of the city of Los Angeles under late and former 4-time mayor, Tom Bradley.

According to Alison Sotomayor, the co-director of the film, Tom Bradley’s Impossible Dream took a little over 7-years to compile, film, and edit. The 45-minute documentary is centered on the inspiring life of Tom Bradley. To the shock of many in the audience, until this film, there has been little to no publically-available information or discourse on the man who helped build much of today’s Downtown skyline.

“Today’s story and theme is about connectivity and coming together,” says Liz Vogel, the Los Angeles Director of Facing History and Ourselves.

It is the promise of Los Angeles…What we want our home to be and look like—for us and for our future. And the young people need to be part of this process.”

“Who better to learn that from than Los Angeles’ first African-American mayor,” said Associate Program Director, Mary Hendra.

As the film screening came to an end, one could not help but feel truly inspired by the life of such a resilient, determined visionary. Administrators, teachers, students and parents took away a larger sense of clarity and personal responsibility in ensuring the success of Bradley’s dream for this city we call home.

In breakout sessions, participants were all able to discuss what they felt made Bradley so special. Teachers, administrators, parents and student alike agreed he was an individual grounded in doing what was right. He attended UCLA on an athletic scholarship, but made education his priority. He moved his family to a then all-white Leimert Park because racial covenants were not enough reason to not live there. He joined the police force because he wanted to help others. And of course, he ran for mayor of Los Angeles because he felt the city deserved better.

Under his leadership, he fought to build a public transportation system that could compete with other large cities and would later make Los Angeles famous worldwide by bringing the 1984 Olympics here. From his support of affirmative action policies, to his harsh criticism of racist and/or discriminatory police practices, he believed in fixing an unjust system that benefited some communities over others.

"His community was large. He saw the importance of coalition building. It also included Asian-Americans, Latinos, and Jewish-Americans. It was those who were handicapped and disabled. It was the LGBTQ community. Groups historically marginalized or forgotten about. They are a part of L.A.’s narrative too,” - Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School teacher.

Ultimately, this was the common thread amongst all discussion groups: How do we, as a community demand and build a more just future for all Angelenos?

In discussion with one group of students from Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School, sophomore Chelsea Cuellar insisted,

We live in a diverse city, but we’re still segregated—by race, freeways, neighborhoods, schools and money. We need to break the negative stereotypes people have of each other.”

That group of students, as well as other groups, committed their time brainstorming how students can help to build stronger communities on their school campuses. Much of their planning revolved around the ideas of keeping Bradley’s impossible dream of building a better, stronger, less divisive Los Angeles alive. Another student remarked,

Change needs to start with us first—individually and in how we treat others.”

Perhaps that student is right. Collectively, we all make up the city of L.A. and have responsibilities to be a part of that process. Tom Bradley’s life, dream and legacy is an integral part of Los Angeles’ history. 

"Now, more than ever. We cannot forget the words of my father. We need to first listen to each other if we want to move forward.” - Lorraine Bradley, daughter of Tom Bradley.

Click here to vote for expanding Facing History partnerships to more schools, more students, and greater potential for the Los Angeles of the future.

Click here to read an interview with the filmmakers.

Topics: Los Angeles, Urban Education, Upstander, Community Event, A View from the Classroom

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