https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Armenian_Americans_in_Los_Angeles

By Lilit Ghazaryan

UCLA Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology

Immigrant families living in the United States are often faced with the challenge of either raising their children monolingual or putting the emphasis on also teaching them their ancestral language. The Armenian community in Los Angeles lives in a bilingual and bicultural reality where they must navigate their way through at least two languages and two cultures on a daily basis. Trying to maintain one’s traditional and cultural norms as well as pass them down to the next generation is as important to the Armenian community as it is to any other minority group in the greater Los Angeles area. Language is one of the biggest aspects of heritage identity and plays a crucial role in maintaining that part of one’s self.

Within the Armenian community, parents are faced with decisions about how to facilitate their children’s language development in their heritage language. Choosing Armenian daycares, which are quite popular in Los Angeles, has been a widespread means for introducing Armenian children to their national identity, language, and traditions at a young age. Many of these Armenian daycares are home based and have been operating for 10 to 20 years caring after many children of Armenian descent.

My research interest towards the topic of raising bilingual children led me to one of these Armenian daycares. I was curious and wanted to understand how Armenian children navigated between the two languages, English and Eastern Armenian, especially during play time when the children were given creative freedom to choose what to play, who to play with, and most importantly which language to communicate with their peers. I spent around two months observing these children. The information documenting their interactions were gathered mainly through video recordings. In addition, I provided questionnaires for parents to share details regarding their family’s unique linguistic background, which included observations of their children’s language use in the home. These parents were all first-generation immigrants from the Republic of Armenia. The primary language spoken by all the families was Eastern Armenian (one of the two varieties of Armenian, the other variety is Western Armenian).

My observations exceeded my expectations as I witnessed children’s ease in manipulating language in both English and Eastern Armenian. Throughout their designated play time, the children learned from one another, efficiently tutoring each other in two languages while also developing a sense of identity as multilingual speakers. For instance, children translated words and/or phrases for each other; switched the language of dialogue based on the proficiency of the listener, and asked each other questions about both languages including specific meanings to given words. All of these speech practices showcased their metalinguistic awareness (speaker’s awareness of the languages they speak) of their own linguistic abilities as well as the proficiency of their peers in either of the languages. By focusing on the metalinguistic aspect of their communications, my goal is to show the advantages of growing up as simultaneous bilinguals, which helps children develop a strong sense towards the linguistic nuances earlier then their monolingual peers. My aim is to illustrate the masterful ways children play with language and incorporate language in play, while simultaneously developing their linguistic skills and understanding of language politics and practices.

This project brings awareness to the underrepresented community of the Armenian American diaspora and fills the gap within the field of similar studies conducted with children. It also highlights the important role children play in their own language socialization and the socialization of their peers. Although this study concentrates on the Armenian community, it opens a window into the world of immigrant children growing up in the linguistically dynamic city of Los Angeles navigating their way through two (in some cases even more) languages while also developing an understanding of their own identity as a multilingual person. As I continue to develop this project further with the goal of co-authoring a publication with Dr. Erica Cartmill, I hope that my work will be useful not only to scholars, but also policy makers, language teachers, parents, and caretakers. My goal is to show the vibrant linguistic environment that children grow up in, highlight the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism, and encourage the maintenance of the heritage language within the diaspora communities.

 

Lilit Ghazaryan is a graduate student in the UCLA Department of Anthropology. Her fields of study are Linguistic Anthropology, Language Socialization, and Multilingualism. Her research focus includes metalinguistic awareness, peer-group socialization among children, and the Armenian-American community in Los Angeles.

 

Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles is known for many things, such as warm weather, beautiful beaches, heavy traffic, busy airport, Hollywood, the entertainment business, and ethnic and cultural diversity. It is also a place that houses so much rich history. History of people and communities making meaning and home in L.A. for so many years. South Los Angeles in particular is an area that has been overlooked, yet has stories to tell. These stories have long been silenced, ignored, or misrepresented.

More recently, gentrification, brought hugely by the Crenshaw/LAX Metro rail line is contributing to the push out of long-time residents and businesses. It’s changing the area at the heart of Black Los Angeles, its population, and its culture to where much of the history of the community is at risk of being erased. As a response to this neglect by the city, local community members, leaders, activists, academics, planners, and artists have come together to create Destination Crenshaw. Among the team of experts who are excited to see this project succeed are UCLA’s Dean of Social Sciences, Darnell Hunt and Professor Marcus Hunter, Chair of the Department of African American Studies. Professor Hunter conducted a research project on Black L.A. that has contributed to the creation of Destination Crenshaw.

Destination Crenshaw is an art project that will be an experience, free for the public to enjoy. It will follow the LAX Metro rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard between 48th and 60th streets. It will be a 1.3-mile open-air museum that will capture themes such as Afro-futurism in South L.A. and community resiliency as well as recognize the unique history of African Americans in the area. It is a hope that this project can help to inform outsiders that there is much to be loved and appreciated in South L.A. as well as reignite community pride for Angelenos about the place they call home.

To learn more, read the Los Angeles Times article HERE.

To read an earlier post about the UCLA research that contributed to Destination Crenshaw, click HERE.

By Preeti Sharma, Saba Waheed, and Vina Nguyen

With the holiday season upon us, many people will visit salons to be pampered and have their nails done. Once a place of luxury for elite women only, US nail salons were democratized in the 1980s when new immigrants and refugees opened salons to a wider clientele. However, lower prices came at a cost to nail salon workers.

In November 2018, the UCLA Labor Center in partnership with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative released Nail Files, a report on the national nail salon sector. While a few studies on the industry have focused on customer health and environmental issues, this report takes a comprehensive look into the multibillion-dollar nail salon industry through a labor lens. We analyzed existing literature, policy reports, and government data to paint a picture of current labor conditions for salon workers.

The majority of nail salons are immigrant-owned mom-and-pop establishments. More than two-thirds of nail salons have five employees or fewer. While there are some large national and regional chains, since immigrant and refugee women transformed the industry in the 1980s, mom-and-pop salons have dominated the sector. The labor force is predominantly Asian—Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Nepali, and Tibetan—but also includes Latinx workers. California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Georgia are the states with the largest population of nail salon workers. 

Eight out of ten nail salon employees are low-wage workers, more than double the national rate for low-wage work of 33%. Strikingly, full-time salon workers earn less than half of what workers make in other sectors.

Nail salon workers experience challenging work conditions, including misclassification. These challenges include low wages, low flat-rate pay that amounts to less than the hourly minimum wage, other minimum-wage and overtime violations, and harassment and surveillance. In addition, 30% of nail salon workers are self-employed, a rate triple the national average, raising the concern that some manicurists are purposely misclassified as independent contractors and are therefore deprived of workplace benefits like health insurance and workers compensation, labor protections, and the right to organize.

What can be done?

The nail salon industry is projected to grow, and it will to continue to innovate to bring in a new clientele. Current trends include extending services to a male clientele using advertising and décor aimed at attracting men, expanding the sector with luxury and chain salons, and developing on-demand and app-based services.

As the sector expands, we recommend improved enforcement of workplace protections, best-practice training that encourages high-road businesses, customer education about fair pricing, and stronger government policies to protect the health and safety of nail salon workers.

Read the full Nail Files report here. Report authors: Preeti Sharma, Saba Waheed, Vina Nguyen, Lina Stepick, Reyna Orellana, Liana Katz, Sabrina Kim, and Katrina Lapira.

 

Preeti Sharma is a UCLA PhD candidate in gender studies and a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Labor Center. Her research interests include feminist theories of work, racialized and gendered labor, service economies, worker center organizing, women-of-color feminisms/queer-of-color critique, and Asian American studies. Her project “The Thread between Them” explores South Asian threading salons in the Los Angeles beauty-service industry and the neoliberal immigrant-service sector.

Saba Waheed is research director at the UCLA Labor Center. She has fifteen years of research experience developing projects with strong community participation. With her team at the Labor Center, she coordinated the first-ever study of domestic-work employers, launched a study of young people in the service economy, and conducted research on the taxi, garment, nail salon, construction, and restaurant industries.

A first-generation student, Vina Nguyen graduated from UCLA in 2018 with a BA in human biology and society. As a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Labor Center, she investigated current trends and labor issues in the US nail salon industry and the impact of erratic scheduling practices on the lives of retail workers in Los Angeles. She continues her research with the Multicenter Aids Cohort Study, a thirty-year study of HIV infection in gay and bisexual men.

By Chad Dunn, Brazil & Dunn, Attorneys at Law, and Matt Barreto, Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies, UCLA

In 2013, Texas passed a restrictive voter identification law requiring any potential voter to show a government-issued photo ID before they could vote. However, Texas was subject to the preclearance provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), Section 5; and before the law could be put into place, Texas had to prove to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. that the law would not have a discriminatory effect on racial and ethnic minorities. Chad Dunn along with other attorneys, intervened in the case and offered evidence that the law would prevent Texans from voting and that minorities would be disproportionately impacted, a result that was intended by the number and nature of IDs Texas chose to allow. Texas lost that court case and the D.C. Court found the voter ID law did have a significant discriminatory effect and blocked Texas from implementing this law. That was when the Voting Rights Act had its full weight.

In 2014, in Shelby v. Holder the Supreme Court held that the Section 5 requirements that stopped Texas from discriminating against voters was outdated and they struck down the so-called Federal preclearance requirements in so far as Congress had applied it to various states and jurisdictions. Within minutes of the ruling, Texas reinstituted their voter ID law, which had already been found to be discriminatory.

https://www.brennancenter.org/legal-work/shelby-county-v-holder

Without Section 5 and Texas intent on enforcing their discriminatory ID law, voting rights attorneys would need to step in and find individual plaintiffs to sue Texas under a different provision, Section 2 of the VRA. On June 28, 2014, Dunn and other nationally known civil rights lawyers filed a lawsuit against Texas alleging that the voter ID law, had a discriminatory effect against blacks and Latinos, and more, that Texas passed this law with discriminatory intent. In an era without the Federal oversight protections of Section 5, it is now incumbent on civil rights advocacy groups and voting rights attorneys to bring individual lawsuits against voting procedures they believe are discriminatory; and to do this, they must rely on academic experts in history and the social sciences to prove, with thorough and methodical research and data analysis, that a voting rule or procedure discriminates against a specific racial or ethnic group. In the case of Texas, Mr. Dunn reached out to Professor Matt Barreto (Chicana/o Studies & Political Science) to provide a critical piece of the social science expertise documenting discriminatory effect.

Barreto collaborated with University of New Mexico Professor Gabriel Sanchez, to implement a large statewide survey of eligible voters across the state of Texas and determine what types of documents and identifications potential voters in Texas possessed. For would-be voters who did not have a proper photo ID, the survey probed if they had the necessary underlying documents needed to go an obtain an ID. Further, Barreto and Sanchez assessed the barriers placed in front of Texas citizens to get a photo ID, such as needing to take time off work, having to find someone to provide transportation, having to drive over 20 miles to the nearest driver’s license office, or having to pay fees to track down their original birth certificate. In full, the social science research pointed to a clear pattern of discriminatory effect in which blacks and Latinos in Texas were statistically less likely to possess a photo ID, and statistically less likely to have the underlying documents necessary to obtain an ID. Further, due to extensive disparities in socioeconomic status, blacks and Latinos in Texas faced considerably more barriers than whites in being able to obtain an ID.

Dunn and Barreto have successfully worked on numerous Voting Rights cases and are now collaborating on a graduate level class at UCLA the includes masters, PhD and JD students. In this class, students learn the steps toward successful prosecution of voting cases from the perspective of the trial lawyer and the expert witness.

 

Chad Dunn of Brazil & Dunn, Attorneys at Law, consistently receives awards from legal publications for his extensive trial and litigation practice in Courts all over the country. From the United States Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit, the Texas Supreme Court and virtually all trial and appellate courts below, Chad has the experience to prevail in the most difficult conditions and environments. He has handled complicated litigation in various states including Texas, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, New Mexico, North Carolina and Florida, and has tried numerous jury cases, trials to the bench and arbitrations.

Matt A. Barreto is Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA and the co-founder of the research and polling firm Latino Decisions. Time Magazine called Latino Decisions the “gold-standard in Latino American polling” and The Guardian wrote that Latino Decisions is “the leading Latino political opinion research group” in the United States. Barreto’s research was recognized in the 30 Latinos key to the 2012 election by Politic365, listed in the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012 by the European Politics Magazine LSDP, and was named one of the top 15 leading Latino pundits by Huffington Post which said Barreto was “the pollster that has his finger on the pulse of the Latino electorate.” In 2015, Barreto was hired by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign to run polling and focus groups on Latino voters.

A Conversation with Dr. Beth Ribet, Co-Director and Co-Founder of Repair and UCLA Lecturer in Gender Studies and Disability Studies

By Lara Drasin

TOMORROW, September 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM in UCLA’s Young Research Library conference room, Repair, a nonprofit organization engaged in research, education, and community-level advocacy regarding health challenges, health disparities and disabilities that result from social problems – along with co-sponsors the UCLA Center for the Study of Women (CSW) and the Positive Results Corporation – will present “Hope.” Hope will be the second of a seven-part series of events titled Transformation: Lectures, Conversations, and Stories About Healing and Social Action.” The other events include Resilience, Imagination, Clarity, Integrity, Trust and Solidarity, which Repair’s Dr. Beth Ribet says are all a part of the transformation process.

“We decided to run this series, really, just as something we thought was deeply needed by a lot of people – those we know, and those we don’t know – in Los Angeles,” said Ribet, who started Repair with co-director and co-founder Claudia Peña in 2014. “There is a lot of legitimate fear and concern about the state of our world, and of the nation, right now…  The messages we’re getting about our future are deeply disheartening, and I think there are so many of us who want to imagine how things could be different but are overwhelmed by that process. So the series is, in one sense, about creating a space for people to imagine social transformation.”

In describing the philosophy behind the event, Ribet stressed that the focus will be not just on each individual’s own healing process, but also the idea of healing as a collective process for the community.

“The themes of healing and social action are meant to be both personal and collective, as most very good things are,” Ribet said. “We think about healing as something that people need to do individually because there are so many reasons that we have to be traumatized, whether by family violence, poverty, racism, policing and incarceration, interpersonal violence, exhaustion, fatigue, or overwork. And so we wanted to focus on healing in a sense that a lot of us need, but also understand that we feel best individually when our communities are healing too. So we’re healing together.”

Ribet acknowledges that the term “community” can be defined in multiple ways. “One of the things that can be true about community,” she explained, “is that it’s the place where you find the people who affirm your reality and make it easier for you to be the person you need to be.”

This particular event, Hope, was named for what Ribet describes as an elemental part of the change-making process. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t need more hope,” she said. Ribet explained that after one survives personal or political trauma, for transformation to take place they must be able to imagine that good things can and will happen, even if it seems impossible or hasn’t been something they have experienced in the past.

“Having hope makes it more likely that you will reach for the possibility [of things getting better],” Ribet said.

Attendees can expect an environment focused on sharing, listening and support on Thursday. Ribet will say a few words, followed by an introduction from Dr. Rachel Lee, Director of UCLA CSW, and then multiple storytellers will share their own experiences. Storytellers for “Hope” include:

Kandee Rochelle Lewis

Kandee Rochelle Lewis is the Executive Director of the Positive Results Corporation, and works to address trauma, teen dating violence, and domestic violence and sexual assault. Her awards and accolades include, but are not limited to the 2018 Hope Award in Education, 2017 “Woman of the Year” from the LA Commission on the Status of Women, and the Vanguard Award for most influential African-Americans in Los Angeles. She is also a founding Board Member for the South Los Angeles Homeless and Foster Care Collaborative.

Dr. Shawna Charles

Shawna Charles holds an MBA and a PhD in Clinical Psychology. As a coach, she identifies as an ‘ACTIONIST’, who motivates people to intentionally choose happiness. She is the creator and founder of ‘Think To Be Happy,’ and has more than ten years experiencing coaching and mentoring. Dr. Charles is a graduate of Howard University and has been recognize by the City of Los Angeles, University of Southern California, and New York Rescue Mission among other organizations, for her community work.

Anam Ella Durrani

Anam Ella Durrani is the founder of A.E.D. Designs, a successful made-to-order clothing line she established at the age of 16 years, while living in Karachi, Pakistan. She worked 14-18 hour days to launch and build the company and its brand, and helped to catalyze an influx of new Pakistani female designers, as her company achieved recognition and acclaim. She identifies becoming an entrepreneur as a teenage girl — in defiance of social taboos and constraints limiting and stigmatizing female independence — as her proudest accomplishment. She is the newest, and youngest member of the board at Repair, and is now the CEO of Durrani Investment Corporation in Los Angeles. As part of her philanthropic work, she is currently building a school for street children in Karachi.

“Storytelling and commitments to healing go way, way back in communities that have always needed to be about resistance,” Ribet said, “whether it’s to colonization, legacies of slavery, or systemic economic inequality, telling stories – preserving stories – is often part of how people who are subordinated or oppressed preserve history, socialize children and come together.”

The ethos behind this form of community healing is a constructive one, as Ribet says it helps further the process of reimagining the world in which we live. “We heal as individuals who care about social change not just to feel better, which is important in and of itself,” she explained, “but because we have to, in order to be there for each other, for our children, our parents, our dear friends, our community members, our faith-based and cultural based institutions. We don’t have much to give if we don’t heal, and if we aren’t intentional about creating spaces and resources that enable us to do that. When it shifts, then you start to see social mobilization that’s so much more powerful and sustainable.”

Over 20 co-sponsors have signed on to help promote the “Transformation” series.  Click here for more information and to RSVP for “Hope” — Part of Transformation: Lectures, Conversations and Storytelling about Healing and Social Action.

For more information about Repair and their work, and to join their mailing list, visit http://repairconnect.org/.

By Kent Wong

Director, UCLA Labor Center

The UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center (DRC), in partnership with Netflix employees and DREAMer’s Roadmap (a program to support undocumented student access to higher education), sponsored a hackathon at the Netflix campus in Silicon Valley, August 10–12, 2018. Through a generous gift from Netflix employees, 40 immigrant youth from across the country spent three days developing innovative online resources and apps to support the rights and needs of immigrants and to address the increasingly hostile policies threatening immigrant communities. The youth were joined by about 20 Netflix and other tech company employees, who served as mentors and coaches throughout the three days.

Silicon Valley is an internationally known center for technology and innovation and serves as a major hub of economic growth and development. What is less known, however, is that tech is an industry that is reliant on immigrant labor. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs and tech engineers are immigrants. In addition, immigrant workers comprise the main workforce who clean the offices, maintain the grounds, provide security, prepare the food, take care of tech employees’ children and elderly relatives, and staff the other service sector jobs that support the tech companies.

Many Silicon Valley companies have invested resources to advocate for immigrant rights and to oppose the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration. Silicon Valley companies are also sensitive to their lack of Latino and African American employees, and many are seeking to expand recruitment efforts to underrepresented communities. The August hackathon was a great step forward in advancing a partnership between the tech world and immigrant communities.

This was the second hackathon sponsored by the UCLA DRC. In September 2017, a hackathon was held at CodeSmith in Venice, California, in partnership with UndocuMedia (an immigrant youth media company), FWD.us (an immigrant rights organization founded within the tech community) and others.

In 2016, the DRC also published a breakthrough research report, Immigrant Youth in the Silicon Valley: Together We Rise, which explores the obstacles young immigrants face when trying to access fair wages, housing and higher education in the area.

For the past three years, the DRC has sponsored the Dream Summer program in the Silicon Valley, placing immigrant youth in internships with education, immigrant rights, and social justice organizations in the area. Dream Summer fellows organized a successful conference at San Jose City College in August 2016 to promote educational access for immigrant students. In August 2017, Dream Summer fellows held a conference at the Univision headquarters in San Jose to address employment opportunities for immigrant youth.

The employee-sponsored Netflix hackathon was an inspiring and exciting event. On September 10, Netflix will host a reception to report on the hackathon to their employees, share a video with highlights and discuss next steps. Plans are already underway to hold another hackathon for immigrant youth in 2019.

 

Kent Wong is the director of the UCLA Labor Center, where he teaches courses in labor studies and Asian American studies. He previously served as staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union. He was the founding president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and of the United Association for Labor Education and currently is vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

By George Chacon

Dream Resource Center Project Manager, UCLA Labor Center

When people are allowed to tell their own stories, they can provide insight into and connection with groups of people we may not ordinarily interact with. But when other people tell those stories, they can be used to paint a negative and unfair picture. No one has done this more, and with more disregard for facts and hatred toward the immigrant community, than Donald Trump. Not a week goes by where he does not say something inflammatory about immigrants, and his supporters echo those stories. Thankfully, working for the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center (DRC) has provided me with opportunities to hear positive stories and experiences from my coworkers and community partners. Some of these stories are featured in the DRC’s Undocumented Stories exhibit, hosted by the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach.

MOLAA will be showcasing Undocumented Stories, a multimedia exhibit that lifts up the personal stories and experiences of immigrant youth, from August 4 to September 9. Undocumented Stories was curated by UCLA students, staff from the UCLA Labor Center and the DRC, and SolArt Media & Design. It includes personal stories, video, and photographs of unaccompanied minors and undocumented youth who built a movement to change US policies on access to higher education, immigration, and deportation. The exhibit aims to humanize the undocumented immigrant experience, empower the immigrant community, and incite critical conversations about the future of US immigration law and policy. Undocumented Stories has traveled to various locations around the country, including Washington, DC, and Boston through a partnership with the National Education Association.

The exhibit features the stories of people like Set Rongkilyo, who does communications for the ICE Out of LA coalition. Set and his family migrated to the United States with the hope of naturalizing their status through an employer. Unfortunately, Set’s family could not fulfill the extensive requirements, became undocumented, and were eventually separated. Set’s father had to return to the Philippines to care for his sick mother and will have great difficulty ever returning to the United States because of his undocumented status.

Then there’s Diego Sepulveda, currently the director of the DRC. I met Diego in 2009 when I was an undergraduate student at UCLA, and I remember how fearless and persistent he was as an undocumented student. The exhibit chronicles his experience as a transfer student attending UCLA and his advocacy efforts in LGBTQ and environmental issues.

My experience working at the DRC and with MOLAA has strengthened my commitment to the movement to ensure that all immigrants are treated with respect and humanity. By uplifting the stories and leadership of immigrants in these unfortunate times, the Undocumented Stories exhibit functions as a necessary and vital counter to the falsehoods coming out of the White House.

 

George Chacon is the Immigrant Justice Project Manager at the Dream Resource Center, where he guides immigrant leaders in developing rapid response networks for immigrant communities as they face increased threats of detention and deportation. He graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a BA in international development studies and a minor in education studies. He is an LA native and has worked on issues such as workforce development, health and wellness, and college readiness.

Downtown Los Angeles protest
Photo by: Gara McCarthy

By Jan Breidenbach

Senior Fellow, UCLA Department of Urban Planning

This was the question addressed by the 2018 Community Scholars project. A joint initiative of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Labor Center, and the Department of Urban Planning, Community Scholars is a two-quarter class that convenes graduate students with community, labor, and city leaders to conduct applied research on pressing local issues.

In 2017, the California legislature passed a historic housing package consisting of fifteen bills that provided new funding for affordable housing and facilitated the siting and building of new housing throughout the state.

 

These bills include a variety of provisions. One of the laws establishes a statewide source of funding for affordable housing by adding a fifty-dollar document recording fee when certain real estate transactions are recorded. Another put a $4 billion bond on the upcoming November ballot with proceeds going to a number of affordable housing programs. A third bill permits local governments to pass housing ordinances that require market-rate builders to include affordable housing. Yet another helps protect tenants presently living in subsidized housing from being evicted when their buildings are sold.

Most of the bills, however, make it easier for builders to build. They make changes to California’s Housing Element laws (the State requirement that all cities and counties identify where housing can be built based on a projection of housing need provided by the State) and an older law, the Housing Accountability Act (HAA). The HAA has been on the books for over thirty years but has been almost completely ignored until now.

The point of all this activity was to spur production of desperately needed housing in California. Advocates around the state fought for these bills and celebrated a great victory when they passed. But after the immediate celebrations, advocates had to sit down and figure out how all this was actually going to play out. What did we really do?

In January, thirteen planning scholars and thirteen community scholars set out to answer this question. At the request of Public Counsel (the nation’s largest pro bono law organization dedicated to social justice for low-income neighborhoods), this year’s Community Scholars separated out the bills and held them up to the light of day-to-day struggles around affordable housing.

The scholars scoured the language for consistency (and inconsistency), applied the new policies to the existing practices of a number of cities, and mapped out what might really happen on the ground. The class created scenarios to demonstrate where the new policies would work best and where they may make little difference. The students interviewed city planners, reviewed local plans, and talked with builders and activists.

So, what did they find?

The new legislation has the potential of making great change, but there are limits on the ground that give us pause. Many cities fight more housing. Homeowners often don’t want more density and sometimes don’t want the people who will live in denser housing. Local voters want the homeless to be housed but often not in their neighborhoods. It is important that we build more densely, but policies that allow for building near transit can lead to gentrification and displacement; without tools to address this concern, tenants may be at risk of eviction. And, although it was proposed, repealing the California law that limits rent control, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, did not pass.

The Community Scholars ultimately agreed that while the housing package was unprecedented, it is only a first step in our long struggle to make sure all Californians have a place to call home.

Read the 2018 Community Scholars Report: Do Bills Build Homes? An Assessment of California’s 2017 Housing Package on Addressing the Housing Crisis in Los Angeles County 

 

Jan Breidenbach teaches housing and community development at Occidental College. Before teaching, she was a long-time advocate, leading the So CA Association of Non-Profit Housing for 15 years. She was a union organizer for the Service Employees International Union and the founder of an economic development organization that worked with poor women excluded from the traditional labor force. She is a Senior Fellow of the UCLA Department of Urban Planning, on the editorial board of the National Housing Institute and a board member with the Economic Roundtable.

Featured in photo: Tom Worger, Bill Worger, and Bantu Holomisa, future leader of the United Democratic Movement, at a wedding in Gazini, Eastern Cape, 2002

Dr. Bill Worger, Professor of History at UCLA, is working on some really interesting projects.  Recently, we caught up with Professor Worger to chat about teaching online classes, a research initiative that digitizes anti-apartheid posters, and comic books.

LASS:     Where are you from and where did you go to school?

BW:        I grew up in New Zealand, first generation New Zealander. I became a teenager in the 1960s when most African and most Asian countries were becoming newly independent states, and I got fascinated in studying their history.

LASS:     Where did you go to school and why did you study what you studied?

BW:        I went to the University of Auckland, and I think something that was unique about the University of Auckland in the 1960s compared to practically every other university in New Zealand or in Canada or Australia or another part of the so-called “white Commonwealth,” was that there were three professors of history: one of them did New Zealand history; one did Africa; one did Southeast Asia. I didn’t grow up as a person who was going to spend my whole life studying Europe and the United States.

LASS:     Now fast forward to UCLA, what do you do here at UCLA and what do you study here?

BW:        I came to UCLA in 1989 to teach African history in general and South African history specifically. Looking back, I first came to the United States for my PhD in 1975. Most New Zealanders were expected to go overseas and most went to Britain and became part of the expat colonial community. I decided to come to the States. After my PhD which I received in ’82 from Yale, I taught at the University of Michigan, I taught at Stanford University, and then I came to UCLA, which had arguably one of the best African history programs in the nation and has had that since the 1960s.

LASS:     What are you currently teaching right now that excites you?

BW:        I’m teaching two courses: one course is History 10B, the history of Africa since 1800, which I’m teaching as an online class to 420 students, most of them first- or second-year students who need a GE. I’m finding that fascinating because of the various work that they do, such as exploring all the resources we have on campus by, for example, doing a field work assignment which asks them to take selfies with an Africa-related item at the botanical gardens, at the Fowler Art Museum, and at the map collection in the library. They are finding out that they’re discovering the campus thoroughly for the first time in their lives. The other class I am teaching is a graduating senior research seminar where I’m asking the students to use two series of comics. One, Mighty Man, was published surreptitiously by the South African government in the 1970s to persuade residents of Soweto to fight crime and support apartheid; the other, the Black Panther, has a lengthy storyline published in 1989 which focuses on the struggle against apartheid. I want my students to see the ways in which popular culture is developed and the ways in which publications such as comics represent history, reflect it, and affect it.

LASS:     That’s amazing. Can you tell me more about the initiative that you started with the comics and how you’ve worked with the UCLA libraries to share them with the world?

BW:        I first went to South Africa in 1977, probably two months after Stephen Biko, a major leader of the anti-apartheid movement, had been killed in prison by the South African authorities, although they never admitted their responsibility until 20 years later and maybe not even now. Much the material then had been banned, the African National Congress had been banned for a long time, I mean it was an incredibly authoritarian society, essentially a police state, and it was highly segregated. Different entrances to the post office. I could go in as a white person. If you were black, you had to go through a separate entry.

If you were “Coloured,” a South African legal definition of the time, there was a separate bus for you. The apartheid government defined everybody as either white or African or Indian or “Coloured.” So many different divisions in daily life. As I have taught the history of South Africa, I’ve been interested especially since the end of apartheid in 1994 when Nelson Mandela became president, to see the ways in which materials that were previously banned or pushed underground or censored or were not supposedly available in the archives can now be accessed. There’s so much that’s creeping out.

In this particular case, I became aware probably about five years ago of the existence of these comics. I’m not quite sure how I found it. But it was partly through looking at comic blogs. And I’m also a believer in collecting things off eBay. This collection became available on eBay simply because some American had collected Mighty Man, and I purchased the whole collection and have worked closely with people at YRL [Young Research Library at UCLA] to digitize it to make it available. Not only to all of us here at UCLA but to the wider public both in North America and in South Africa where they’re seeing these for the first time since most of them were destroyed literally in 1976.

http://southafricancomicbooks.blogspot.com/2015/01/afri-comics-mighty-man-series.html

“What I find is in many of these initiatives we are pursuing at UCLA that they are being very well received and accepted in South Africa, particularly by black historians, who have been still and to this present day remain marginalized by academia. But these young scholars are the people on the ground and the ones who have the community knowledge and the language skills to understand their own history.” – Professor Bill Worger

LASS:     Why is this work important?

BW:        I think it’s important work in terms of people finding out and rediscovering their history. I’ve gone to South Africa and talked to younger people, younger black students in particular, who feel that much of the history of apartheid is the history of their parents. It’s not something that affects them immediately since they are often students born after 1994 and they can’t quite understand why their parents either won’t talk about apartheid or why they have so many terrible memories. What I find is in many of these initiatives we are pursuing at UCLA that they are being very well received and accepted in South Africa, particularly by black historians, who have been still and to this present day remain marginalized by academia. But these young scholars are the people on the ground and the ones who have the community knowledge and the language skills to understand their own history.

What I feel like is that it’s important to provide these people with access, which we can do uniquely at UCLA. The materials that they themselves can access or digitize, either because they’re not in their libraries or because of the costs involved. This is part of understanding their history and learning more about it, because they’ve got a fragmented notion of their past particularly because history has been so controlled by white authorities in South Africa both during the apartheid era and even to the present day in terms of those who teach in universities.

LASS:     What types of new knowledge does this project and initiative generate?

BW:        It produces new knowledge, new sources, and new ways of talking about the past, particularly the student uprising in Soweto in 1976. There’s a fascinating television series “When We Were Black” made by black South Africans, including Professor Sifiso Ndlovu, who as a 13 year-old was one of the student protestors in 1976. This TV series in a very low-key way shows the ways in which children, high school children, were politicized by daily activities. It’s a very powerful film. Access to the Mighty Man comics (none of which remain in public circulation in South Africa) for Professor Ndlovu and his peers and students provides yet another form of evidence to show the ways in which the government was trying to manipulate young people during the apartheid era. Trying to affect their minds in visual ways particularly through the utilization of comics. This is just one project in which I’m engaged but there are so many ways in which you can delve back in, and, in a sense, disinter hidden histories.

LASS:     There’s such relevancy to that with what’s going on today, right, in popular culture and in the media and in the news. I imagine your students are able to when they learn about these materials and take these classes and participate in this research, are developing a critical way to extrapolate.

BW:        I emphasis generational empathy and understanding in a lot of my classes. What I like to ask my students to do, most of whom are in their late teens, early to mid twenties is to think about their own family histories. Think about where they are right now. In the seminar, I’m teaching on comparing Mighty Man and the Black Panther. I’ve got a fair number of students who were born in the United States, but they’re of Iranian descent. With them, I’m asking them, think about what was happening in Iran as of the 1970s or what was happening as of their parents’ generation.

Let’s say if I’m talking about South Africa in the middle of the 1870s when we get the development of an industrialized, very modern, but very repressive racial society. What would your family have been doing at that time? I’ve had students who are African American who are only a few generations removed from slavery, or the Jim Crow racism of the late 19th and 20th centuries. I’ve had students who are descendants of white slave owners in the US South. I’ve had students from other parts in the world, from Asia and the Middle East, who I have asked to think about what their families were doing as of around 1870, because I want people to reimagine themselves into these situations. It’s not just solely an objective past to be looked at, it’s something to be rethought and relived in. We use a multitude of sources.

LASS:     What type of solutions will be derived from that?

BW:        I’m old enough now to know there are never any solutions. What I emphasize to my students, and this is the most remarkable thing, which is if we really want to find social mobility in the world, in a world that’s basically unfair and obviously discriminatory in many ways, education is the way in which you can achieve some social mobility. It’s absolutely key. It’s the way no matter how oppressed you are, how discriminated, how marginalized, through education you can succeed in both changing your own position and those of your family and those who surround you. You can also change yourself in terms of how you think about anything. You can always be free in your own mind.

In a way that for so many of the people that I study in South Africa, for example, the end of apartheid has not meant the end of poverty or marginalization or discrimination. But, people in their minds have become free and that gives them a very different perspective at how they look around at other people and at the problems they have in their lives.

LASS:     In all your work, your teaching, your research, the projects that you engage in, what’s the big impact that you’re hoping to make?

BW:        It’s always incremental. It’s always the little things. I’m delighted to engage in conversations and have my students take over. I would hope that one or more of those 420 students in 10B go away with an understanding that history is not just the statistics and the facts and that there’s a solution and life gets better all the time, but there are constant struggles and everybody needs to be respected. In dealing with my South African colleagues, I understand history has to be transformed there; it has to become possessed by the people who are the majority of the country, and the people who have indigenous knowledge of the 11 or so languages there. They’re the people who are going to revolutionize history. I’ve been part of the incremental change, but it’s only a small part.

LASS:     I know prior to the turning on the recorder we talked a little bit about a new research grant that you’re applying for, that you are hoping to get funded. Tell us about that. I’m excited to learn more about that.

BW:        I told you about two research grants. One of which actually has already got funded by the Office of the UC President, which will enable me to go to South Africa with my wife, Professor Nancy Clark, who is also an historian of South Africa and where we will actually work on developing lectures based on site, at the places where events actually happened and where we will do a different history which focuses the majority of the people in the country. We hope that we can then share it with the people there and again be part, a small part, of the development of the historical profession in that country. I’m also waiting to find out about another grant that I worked on with a couple colleagues at UCLA. This is a grant to support another UC-HBCU initiative to hopefully bring to UCLA each summer, 10 students from Spelman, Howard University and North Carolina Central University, who will come to UCLA and spend their time meeting with faculty and with fellow students who are interested in what I would in term the engaged social sciences. That is academic study that is aimed towards improving society. A very general term, I know, but we can incrementally make the world around us a slightly better place on the basis of what we discover and what we find out in our academic work.

LASS:     With that, thank you so much. It’s there anything that I didn’t ask or I should know about?

BW:        So we have in Los Angeles probably the world’s biggest collection of political posters at the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. It’s just an incredible resource in Culver City. I’m working with colleagues in South Africa and with colleagues at YRL to develop a grant so that we can digitize the approximately 1,000 anti-apartheid posters that this collection has.

These are posters that were made in the United States, they were made in the Soviet Union when it was the Soviet Union. They were made in Cuba. They were made in all parts of the world and they are posters that were created as part of the anti-apartheid struggle. None of these posters are available in South Africa because they would have been banned so they could never have been circulated.

If any of them did circulate, say surreptitiously, in South Africa the police and military would have destroyed them so they are not available there. So what I am working with, as I say, with colleagues at YRL and in South Africa is to get a grant to digitize these materials so that we can create a public archive of anti-apartheid materials that would then be accessible to young black South Africans who can see the ways in which the entire world was engaged to end apartheid and end white supremacy in their country.

It becomes a research resource for people who are interested in history, but it also becomes something whereby people understand communication and mutual interest across generations and across boundaries.

LASS:     Thank you!

UPDATE: As of June 6, 2018, Professor Worger informed us that a fellow historian from South Africa, Dr. Chitja Twala, Head of the History Department at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, had been awarded a fellowship by the Mellon Foundation that will enable him to spend three months at UCLA in 2019.  Dr. Twala will arrange the digitization of the anti-apartheid posters at the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Culver City, CA. UCLA’s Young Research Library will then arrange for the uploading and archiving of these posters so that they will be freely available worldwide.

 

Dr. Bill Worger was interviewed by Mike Nguyen, an assistant editor and contributor to LA Social Science.

 

By Professor Ellen Pearlstein, UCLA Information Studies and UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials

UCLA recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the rich collaboration between the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum (ACCM) in Palm Springs and the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials. The first class was taught in collaboration with ACCM in 2007, and the fifth class ended in 2017.

The course, which is required for graduate conservation students in the UCLA/Getty Program, includes collaborations resulting in sharing cultural, technical and analytical expertise among students, ACCM staff, guest basketry weavers, ethnobotanists, curators and community members. Over the past 10 years, a changing ACCM staff, including directors, curators, archivists, tribal board members, and the ACCM Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, have generously shared knowledge with the students about the founding of the museum and its role in the community.

In 2017, the students were joined by conservator ​Özge Gençay Üstün (pictured),
weavers ​Roseann Hamilton and Abe Sanchez (pictured),
and William Pink, curators Bryn Potter and Jan Timbrook (pictured),
Sean Milanovich from Agua Caliente, and Cara Stansberry from ACCM

Students complete thorough research, examinations, conservation treatments and re-housing of ACCM objects—primarily baskets—based on discussions with ACCM staff and guest instructors. Both technical knowledge and a clear understanding of tribal museum goals are imparted to the students, which taken together with community input invariably impact conservation decision-making.

Products of this rich collaboration include a faculty and student co-authored article, as well as both a physical and a virtual exhibit describing conservation methods achieved through collaboration, a virtual exhibit that (temporarily unavailable but described here), and a faculty-student publication describing the impact of that virtual exhibit.

In 2009, UCLA Library hosted an exhibit of ACCM items prepared by UCLA/Getty students. This image is the invitation sent out for the opening event.

Between 1983 and 2005, Pearlstein was assistant, associate and senior objects conservator at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Pearlstein served as an adjunct professor in conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts-Conservation Center at NYU between 1991-2004. In 2005, Pearlstein assumed a faculty position in the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Material. As a member of the founding faculty, she and her colleagues designed a curriculum, outfitted a laboratory, and Pearlstein began teaching graduate classes in the conservation of organic materials, ethics of working with indigenous communities, preventive conservation and managing collections. In 2008, Pearlstein joined UCLA’s Department of Information Studies, and invited students interested in library, archive, and rare book materials into her preservation and management classes.  Her research includes conservation of featherwork, effects of environmental agents; pre- and post-Hispanic qeros from the Andes; developing diversity within conservation, and curriculum development within conservation education. Pearlstein is an elected Fellow in the American Institute for Conservation and, recently, in the International Institute for Conservation, winner of the AIC Keck award, and President of the Association of North American Gradate Programs in Conservation.