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Browning the Green Movement

The Alianza de los Pueblos del Rio formed after [Robert] Garcia and others decided that development of a new L.A. River was a symbolic and literal convergence of a myriad of issues confronting L.A.’s Latino population. To be left out of the discussion, they realized, was to be left high and dry, as the river shifts directions into the future. Instead, the alliance . . . spearheaded river meetings and community outreach that have ballooned into a comprehensive new platform of urban Latino environmentalism. Part legal strategy, part organizing principle, this green movement en español has put people–immigrants and poor people, mostly–at the center of an issue traditionally focused on flora and fauna, and which has pitted some environmentalists against immigrants.

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Quieren el Río para el pueblo

La Opinion features the work of the Alianza de los Pueblos del Rio on August 31, 2006. The Alianza includes the Anahuak Youth Soccer Association, Center for Law in the Public Interest, Mujeres de la Tierra, REMAP-LA and the William C. Velazquez Institute. The Alianza seeks to ensure that the master plan process for the Los Angeles River provides democratic participation and equitable results in the revitalization of the River with healthy parks, schools, and communities. We seek economic, environmental, equitable, and healthy development and human health for all communities along the River for generations to come.

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Chi Mui, Civil Rights Hero

Chi Mui, civil rights hero, died Thursday, April 27, 2006, from cancer. Chi, a native of Hong Kong, was Mayor of San Gabriel and was elected to the city council in 2003, the first Asian American to hold each post.

In November 1999 Chi Mui, Luis MacAdams, and Arthur Golding took me to lunch at the Chinatown Carousel to share their dream about creating a park in the Cornfield in the heart of downtown Los Angeles as part of the greening of the Los Angeles River. Chi was then a Chinatown activist and political staffer, Luis MacAdams a poet and founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River, and Arthur Golding an architect who drew conceptual plans for the park. After lunch, Chi drove me around the Cornfield for the first time. The Chinatown Yard Alliance was born, spawning the community organizing effort, administrative complaint before HUD, and lawsuit that stopped the proposal for 32 acres of warehouses to create what is now the Los Angeles State Historic Park. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Chinatown before,” Chi said. “We’ve never had such a victory. And now, every time people walk with their children down to that park, they’ll see that great things can happen when folks come together and speak up. We can renew our community one dream at a time.” Although Chi did not live to see the park completed, his dream has forever changed Los Angeles and the urban park movement. Thank you, Chi, and our condolences to Betty and his family.
Robert Garcia

Juanita Tate, Civil Rights Hero (1938-2004)

Juanita TateJuanita Tate, a longtime community activist and founder of Concerned Citizens of South-Central Los Angeles, passed away on July 5, 2004, after suffering a stroke two days earlier. Juanita collapsed as she was preparing to lead a tour of Concerned Citizens’ revitalized Mount Zion Towers, a residence for senior citizens.

Juanita Tate is our hero, our inspiration, and our long time client. The City Project had the honor of representing her and Concerned Citizens in the people’s victories for state parks in the Cornfield, Taylor Yard, and the Baldwin Hills. We represented her in the fight to stop sewer odors that violate clean water laws.

We share the vision for schools with playing fields open to the community, and for using parks, school yards, and soccer as organizing tools to bring people together. We represented her in the campaign to stop the LANCER incinerator—an early environmental justice victory in the 1980’s.

Juanita is survived by her two sons, the Rev. Eugene Williams and Mark Williams, and her daughter Noreen McClendon, who is the new Executive Director of Concerned Citizens. We will continue the struggle for equal justice for all with her children and her community.

Rev. Williams told the Los Angeles Times, “My mother knew that her time was getting short. She was very passionate about making sure we understood every aspect of how organizations run. We are prepared. The only thing we weren’t prepared for was not being able to have her here.”

The family requests that any donations be sent to Concerned Citizens of South-Central Los Angeles, 4707 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90011.

Voter Registration and Get Out The Vote with Anahuak Youth Soccer

Kids Playing SoccerThe City Project, working with Raul Macías and the Anahuak Youth Soccer Association, helped register thousands of voters and conducted Get Out The Vote drives for the May 17, 2005, Los Angeles Mayoral election.

What do soccer, voter registration, and democracy have in common? Soccer and voter registration are organizing tools to bring people together to create the kind of community where we want to live and raise children. New Latino immigrants in the United States do not organize politically. They first organize soccer leagues, as documented by Juan Gonzalez in his book Harvest of Empire. Using skills learned in bringing people together, they then go on to organize politically. This is what we are doing with Raul Macías and the families and friends of the 1,500 children in the Anahuak Youth Soccer Association. Anahuak builds athletics, academics and leadership in inner city youth through green fields and soccer teams. We are diversifying democracy from the ground up to seek equal justice and livability for all. We are making real improvements in people’s lives. We are showing people a sense of their own power. We are altering the relations of power.

This voter registration and get out the vote drive extends The City Project’s work with Election Protection in the fall of 2004.

Making Every Vote Count

By Christopher T. Hicks

Making Every Vote CountAs I received my assignment to monitor the November 2, 2004, Presidential Election in the swing state (and ultimately the last stand state)
of Ohio as part of the Election Protection Program, my mind was filled with one objective: make every vote count. After witnessing the shaming of our democracy in Florida during the 2000 elections I was determined not to let it happen again.

We chose Ohio because if any place was going to be the Florida of 2004, Ohio was going to be it. While it wasn’t quite Florida 2000, the election did end up hanging on Ohio.

When I awoke at 4:30 a.m. on Election Day, I wasn’t prepared for what I would experience even though I had completed two training sessions. I arrived at 5:30 a.m. at the Election Protection Legal Command Center. I was paired up with a local attorney. We were to rove around six precincts located in African American neighborhoods. As we arrived at the first polling site at 6:30 a.m., lines were
already forming. It was then that I knew this would be a very long day. By the time we made it to our second stop we began to see problems.

The Linden Library in Columbus, Ohio, at 7:15 a.m. on November 2, 2004, was a scene of electoral chaos. There were hundreds of people standing in two lines complaining about a voting system that was taking too much time. When my partner and I arrived, we asked the people in line what was the problem. They told us that two lines was not efficient. To their frustration they had to wait in one line to sign in and receive their voter registration slip and then they were made to go to the back of another line to cast their vote. The best way to deal with this in my mind was to create one line where people signed in, received their voter slip, and voted. My partner and I approached the presiding judge in that polling place and asked if we could do this. She agreed and thanked us.

But there was a much larger problem at that polling station. At the Linden Library, precinct 25D, there were only three voting booths for over 1,500 voters. The result was what you would expect. People, mostly African American, were forced to stand in long lines in the pouring rain for as long as seven hours to cast a ballot.

This problem was not limited to Linden Library. This was a systemic problem throughout the six African American precincts in Franklin County my partner and I monitored. We called in the problem to the Legal Command Center, which agreed to file a complaint with the Board of Elections. In the meantime, my partner and I collected affidavits from people attesting to the long lines and waiting time. What we found appeared to be no mere oversight or mistake on the part of the people in charge of this election. How could someone not foresee this result? Every affidavit filled out in our six precincts told of how in elections past there had been six to ten voting booths in the exact same locations. For this election there were only three. We heard that in White precincts in the same county there were six or more voting booths for registration rolls with less people. One precinct in a White part of the county had twenty voting booths, and of course, much shorter lines. This left no doubt in my mind that this was a concerted effort to intimidate and suppress African American turnout.

But a funny thing happened in Columbus, Ohio. People stayed in line and voted anyway. And not just a couple of people. Thousands of people. All day long they braved the rain and voted, determined to have their voices heard. There were hundreds of first-time voters. Hundreds of young voters, and many voters you thought you would never see in line to cast a ballot. I had one young man come up and ask me if he could vote even though he had an outstanding arrest warrant. I told him he could. Perhaps the most rewarding moment came when I saw a visibly upset man in his late 60s storming out of the polling place. I followed him and asked him what was wrong. He told me they would not let him vote because they said he was not registered. He assured me he was registered and had voted at the same location for 30 years. I asked him to come back to the polling place. We marched into the precinct and I asked the officials why he had been denied the right to vote. They told me that he wasn’t on the register list. I informed them that under federal law he was entitled to a provisional ballot. They agreed and gave him one.

As I left at 11:30 p.m., when the last voter cast her ballot long after the polls had closed, I felt as though I had done my best to make sure that every vote counted.