It’s fashionable to portray Los Angeles as apathetic: Voter turnout is perennially low; engagement shallow; politics remote. Not on Wednesday night. Some 200-300 people turned out for an evening discussion of inequality and poverty, hosted by Blueprint and the California Endowment at its downtown headquarters.
Former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is exploring a bid for governor, highlighted the evening. At every stop on his California “listening tour,” the former mayor said, inequality is at the top of people’s concerns. Villaraigosa has been spending much time in the Central Valley, a potentially pivotal region for him politically, and he said he has been struck by the difficulties facing so many in that part of the state.
Father Greg Boyle, founder and CEO of Homeboy Industries, urged listeners to consider the poor not as failures but as kin, to approach this and other issues with a deepened sense of community and common purpose. And Dr. Robert Ross, president of the Endowment, framed his response in more secular but equally impassioned terms. He called for grass roots organizations and individuals to bond together and demand the social and economic changes that would genuinely confront inequality in American society.
The audience included judges, elected officials and representatives of many of Los Angeles’ most committed non-profits. Maria Elena Durazo, one of the nation’s most admired labor leaders, was on hand, as was Monica Garcia of the Los Angeles Unified School District board. Ananya Roy, director of a new UCLA center on inequality and democracy, welcomed the guests and kicked off the discussion
One point well made by a member of the audience fell to me to respond. Given income disparity between men and women, she asked, why was no woman on the panel? That’s a fair question, and I could only reply that I will seek to remedy that in the future. To be clear, though, Blueprint features the work of many women writers and has focused extensively on research being conducted by women. We’ll continue to do so.
Here are some photos from the event: http://calfoto.zenfolio.com/blueprint151021
And here’s a video: https://youtu.be/-xcuJxMgQxk