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Jasmin A. Young is currently a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of African American Studies. As a historian, her research focuses on African American history, 20th Century U.S. History, and gender studies. She specializes in African American women’s history, social movements, and the Black radical tradition.

Originally from Los Angeles, Jasmin Young began her academic career at California State University, Northridge. After graduation, she moved to NYC to attend Columbia University where she received her Masters in African American Studies and worked with the late Dr. Manning Marable. With a desire to ground herself in gender theories, Dr. Young moved to the UK to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), earning a second Masters of Science from the Gender Institute.

In 2018, Dr. Young graduated with a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her dissertation, “Black Women with Guns: A Historical Analysis of Armed Resistance 1892-1979,” offers a long history of women’s political engagement with Black militant activism from the Reconstruction to the Black Power era.

She is developing her book manuscript, Black Women with Guns: Armed Resistance in the Black Freedom Struggle, which is the first intellectual and social history of Black women’s use of armed resistance as a tool to achieve freedom in post–World War II America. While historical studies have assumed armed resistance was a male prerogative, she makes a significant intervention in the historiography by recovering a history of Black women who engaged in and advocated armed resistance from 1955-1979. Using archival research and gender theories, the book argues that Black women increasingly politicized armed resistance, both in theory and in practice, as the Black Freedom Movement shifted its objectives from integration to self-determination. Ultimately, Black Women with Guns broadens our understanding of the Black freedom struggle by expanding what we regard as political thought and action. It also reveals a more multifaceted struggle whose objectives and strategies were continually contested and evolving.

She presented her research to a packed house at UCLA’s Black Forum this past year where she fielded questions and led a great discussion on the intersection of state violence resistance and Radical Black Feminism. Dr. Young has presented her work at various national conferences including the Organization of American Historians. Her work has garnered general public attention and has been featured in the media. You can listen to her interview for the Black Agenda Report with Glen Ford HERE. She was also the historical consultant and writer for a documentary entitled, “Tracking Ida.”

Dr. Young is regarded as a rising junior scholar with cutting-edge research that connects the historical and contemporary understanding and contributions of Black Feminism. Many have attested to her accomplishments and many are eager to read her book when published. For example, fellow scholars at UCLA have said, “Jasmin’s intellectual maturity and complete dedication to research are among her most salient qualities. I was particularly impressed by how she theorized on Malcolm X’s intellectual development as influenced by the Detroit activist community, as well as when she investigated the contradictions of hyper-visibility and invisibility of Black women transnationally in hip-hop culture.”

She has been a great scholar to have in UCLA’s African American Studies Department as well as across campus. Dr. Young’s research reflects the caliber and innovation UCLA offers students, faculty, and the broader community.

Six new UCLA ladder faculty members were presented with the inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Community-Engaged Scholars, supported by both the Chancellor’s Office and the UCLA Center for Community Learning, for the 2019-2020 academic year. Each recipient will receive $10,000 towards supporting their own community-engaged research and design to implement in an undergraduate course. For the purposes of this award, “Community-engaged research, in this context, encompasses research and creative work across all fields that address an agenda of social justice and create reciprocal value with community partners. At its best, community-engaged research both achieves high levels of scholarly recognition within a field and advances efforts to redress social inequalities” (UCLA Internal Funding Opportunities). This is a strong cohort who meets the community-engaged research standards and whose work will be a major contribution to academic scholarship.

This well-deserved honor calls for celebration and congratulations to all the awardees, but especially to the three faculty members from our Division, Drs. Maylei Blackwell, Marissa Lopez, and Meredith Phillips. Below is a list of all the recipients, their department, and a short description of their community-engaged research project.

  • Maylei Blackwell, associate professor of Chicana and Chicano studies. In her course, Blackwell plans to use community archives and oral histories to map the Latin American indigenous diaspora in Los Angeles.
  • Arleen Brown, professor of medicine. In Brown’s course, students will work with community organizations and academic faculty to reduce chronic disease disparities in Los Angeles County through community-engaged collaborative projects.
  • Jenny Jay, professor of civil and environmental engineering. Jay’s course will center around environmental research that engages community members.
  • Marissa Lopez, associate professor of English and Chicana and Chicano studies. In Lopez’s course, students will partner with the Los Angeles Public Library to build a geolocation smartphone app that displays historical images of Mexican Los Angeles.
  • Rashmita Mistry, professor of education, and Karen Quartz, director, UCLA Center for Community Schooling. Their course will have students delve into educational research methodological approaches using an equity and social justice lens.
  • Meredith Phillips, associate professor, public policy and sociology. Phillips’ course will have students use student and staff survey data to improve K-12 education.

For more information, read the UCLA Newsroom story HERE.

Taking a photo outside of the restaurant where we discussed the advent of graduate school and the best way to use our time during Undergrad. (From left to right: Gilberto Mendoza. Amado Castillo, Celina Avalos, Vianney Gomez, Julio Mendez Vargas, and Eduardo Solis)

By Amado Castillo and Eduardo Solis

With over 1,000 organizations at UCLA, it is difficult for undergraduates to carve out a place and establish a presence on campus. In 2017, UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences and the Luskin School of Public Affairs incubated a new avenue for undergraduates to engage with faculty on community-facing policy issues–the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI).

“From the first LPPI event I ever attended, a lunchtime conversation with my Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, I felt that it was an important organization as it connected policymakers with the academics who are studying the community conditions that they are trying to remedy. The idea of working at a rapid-pace think tank was daunting at first, but after my initial meeting with Sonja Diaz, I found that while there is an expectation for professionalism and a strong work ethic, there is a definite sense of community. I am very grateful to get to work with and learn from peers of mine who are definitive forces of change on our campus.” -Amado

“Throughout my first two years at UCLA, I was uncertain on what career I wanted to pursue. However, having taken a course on immigration policy made me aware to the fact that policy is what affects marginalized communities the most. During my interview to be a policy fellow, I was greeted by Sonja’s dog, Junot, and then later, Senate pro Tempore Kevin de León! This is emblematic of the space that LPPI convenes; something both accessible and powerful.” -Eduardo

As new policy fellows, we spent the first few weeks transitioning into our roles through the mentorship and guidance of current undergraduate and graduate policy fellows. We gained invaluable knowledge during the first half of spring quarter and became accustomed to working as a collective in a professional setting. During the third week, Sonja Diaz (LPPI’s Founding Executive Director) invited us to participate in a professional development opportunity with Bay Area professionals. We met with professionals of color from a handful of important sectors who imbued us with the knowledge of what it meant to lead with a social justice mindset. Diaz explained to us that the people we were going to meet with all worked in different sectors, all of which are woefully lagging on issues of diversity and inclusion. These sectors include the philanthropy, tech, and healthcare industry.

Policy Fellows gaining insight and taking notes while JC discusses how philanthropy can be utilized to uplift communities of color (From left to right: Julio Mendez Vargas, Eduardo Solis, Vianney Gomez, Amado Castillo and JC De Vera)

When we got to our first meeting, we met JC De Vera who works as a Program Grantmaker at the San Francisco Foundation in the Embarcadero building. He explained to us how fulfilling his job is, working within the philanthropy sector to mobilize and move resources to fuel advocacy. De Vera explained the importance of the intersections of advocacy and philanthropy, specifically how grant allocations have a significant impact on which organizations flourish and which die. He described to us how many people do not enjoy working in philanthropy because they anticipate having to go through a lot of bureaucratic red tape. However, De Vera is grateful that he gets to manage a rapid response power fund. He expressed, “I need to have an impact in my life and my career. If not, it’s not the job for me.” De Vera concluded our meeting by reiterating how for him, work has always been about lifting up people from the margins and giving them the financial assistance to do so.

At our next stop we connected with Hector Preciado at his Hired office, which looked and felt like the way tech companies are portrayed in television and film. He provided a different/contrary approach, inviting us to think about doing business school. He explained the importance of having executives in tech companies with a socio-political consciousness, as it is integral that Latinos become a part of the next wave of moguls if we want to ensure success within our community. Preciado also emphasized the importance of networking, describing how many doors had been opened for him and how many he has had the opportunity to open for others. Still, he cautioned us that networking was not a volume game, but rather a value game, and the worth is in its diversity.

Group photo taken after our meeting with Hector Preciado at Hired where he emphasized the importance of having socially-conscious Latinos in positions of power at influential corporations. (From left to right: Rosie Serrato Lomeli, Vianney Gomez, Amado Castillo, Julio Mendez Vargas, Sonja Diaz, and Hector Preciado)

Our final meeting took place over dinner near Oakland’s City Center where we met with Gilberto Soria Mendoza, a previous mentee of Diaz from her days at UCLA. He offered us suggestions about graduate school and described his journey from East Palo Alto high school to Washington, D.C. and back. Mendoza was incredibly personable and gave us guidance about how we could best use our experiences at UCLA to benefit our professional and academic futures. He described to us how he managed to complete his master’s degree nearly debt-free and encouraged us to apply to professional programs that focus on helping students of color prepare for graduate school.

In all, these meetings provided a sense of security and inspiration for what our futures could entail. The sectors that De Vera, Preciado, and Mendoza occupy weren’t made for them or us. As such, seeing people of color taking up positions in these sectors that have been historically dominated by white people sparked a sense of motivation within us to follow their footsteps. It gives us hope that we too will accomplish our career goals in taking up leadership positions in sectors that were not structured for people that look like us.

  • UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative study finds that Latino students pursuing a medical career in California must overcome significant barriers to successfully become physicians. The main barriers identified are: financial and opportunity cost, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation and citizenship.
  • Barriers to the medical profession further exasperate the Latino physician shortage in California. Policymakers, advocates and stakeholders must address the barriers encountered by Latinos in the medical profession to meet the health care needs of all residents.

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), in collaboration with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, recently released its fourth installation of policy reports addressing California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Authored by LPPI Faculty Research Expert Dr. Arturo Vargas-Bustamante and Lucía Félix Beltrán, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Prospective discusses the main barriers and sources of support identified by a sample of Latino pre-med students, medical school applicants, Latino medical students, and recently graduated Latino physicians.

This report finds that, “the medical profession is de facto not open to everyone.” Specifically, unequal backgrounds and opportunities, diverse career trajectories, and various barriers in the medical profession, such as underrepresentation of Latinos in the medical field or academic disadvantages, are creating major difficulties for Latino students seeking careers as physicians.

“This analysis by Bustamante and Beltran provides a critically needed and comprehensive examination of the pipeline from high school, through college, and into medical school faced by Latinx students.  Importantly, it examines the multiple causes of leaks from that pipeline using an innovative methodology incorporating the experiences of those students.  It is these leaks that impair California’s ability to generate the diverse physician workforce needed to care for the State’s increasingly diverse population.” says Dr. David Carlisle, President of Charles Drew University, a private, nonprofit University committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations.

In 2015, Latinos became California’s plurality population with approximately 15.2 million Latinos residing in the state. By 2050, Latinos are estimated to represent 44.5% of the state’s population.[1] While the Latino population continues to grow, the supply of Latino physicians has not caught up.[2] The scarcity of Latino physicians in California has led to a deficit of 54,655 Latino physicians that are required to achieve parity with Non-Hispanic Whites.[3]

Pipeline programs and mentorship platforms partly address the barriers Latino students face to become physicians with support such as tutoring, mentorship, and exposure to the medical profession. However, these programs alone are unable to substantially change the low representation of Latinos in the medical profession.

Therefore, California must reduce the barriers faced by Latino physician hopefuls throughout the state. The report includes policy recommendations that directly address the barriers that unnecessarily complicate the navigation of medical education for Latinos. Policy recommendations outlined in the report include, increasing financial resources available to students who do not qualify for existing programs, such as those that require citizenship, or addressing academic disadvantages by coordinating and expanding pipeline programs that support students from middle school until medical school.

The need to address this deficit is increasingly pressing as the share of the Latino population increases in California, and as the demand for health care increases with population aging. Every year that California does not work to increase access of the medical education for Latino students, already inadequate access to high quality care worsens, ultimately impacting the overall healthcare outcomes of the state.

 

This research was made possible by a generous grant from AltaMed Health Services Corporation.

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/health

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

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[1] DOF. Projections. 2018; http://www.dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Demographics/Projections/.

[2] Sanchez G., Nevarez T., Schink W., Hayes-Bautista D. E. Latino Physicians in the United States, 1980-2010: A Thirty-Year Overview From the Censuses. 2015(1938-808X (Electronic)).

[3] Hsu P, Balderas-Medina Anaya Y, Hayes-Bautista D. E. 5 Centuries to Reach Parity: An Analysis of How Long it Will Take to Address California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Los Angeles, CA: Latino Policy & Politic Initiative; October 2018 2018.

By Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

This past winter quarter, the UCLA Labor Studies Program offered the class Spirituality, Mindfulness, Self-care, and Social Justice. Originally offered as a small seminar in 2015, the class has grown to 120 students with a follow-up seminar offered in the spring. We sat down with Professor Victor Narro to learn more about the course and the impact it has had on the student community.

What is the Spirituality, Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Social Justice class?

I created this class in 2014 when I became more aware that UCLA students involved with social justice organizations suffered from similar levels of stress and anxiety as my colleagues in the work for labor and immigrant rights. The class is offered during winter quarter and introduces students to the teachings and practices of spiritual leaders like Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thich Nhat Hanh. Throughout the course, students learn how to apply the lessons on self-compassion and compassion for others.

How did you get interested in self-care, and what made you decide to teach a class on it?

A few years ago, I started suffering from burnout in my social justice work. I thought it was just because I was getting older, but then I started noticing it’s a major issue throughout the social justice movement—people just overwhelmed, especially under the Trump administration. I see the same symptoms with student activists, and it’s even tougher on them in many ways; they have to balance their academic workloads with their activist work and their personal lives, and many are also working.

What is self-care?

Self-care, is learning to be activists for ourselves, to care about ourselves so that we can more effectively care for others, and to find a balance between the two. Being activists for ourselves means taking care of our physical health and emotional well-being while also taking care of others.

What are the goals of the course?

Through reflections on the readings and activities, students can learn to use self-care practices in their daily lives to reduce their stress and improve their health. I emphasize that there is no best practice for this. Religion can play a role, and students’ religious faiths can be integrated into their practice. Others might choose a spirituality practice disconnected from organized religion or just practical applications of mindful breathing, meditation, or yoga. Everybody is going to find something that works for them.

My goal is also to connect students with the campus resources their fees pay for. For instance, most students don’t know that there is a mindfulness awareness program that offers free classes and workshops to students. There’s also Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which offers free psychological counseling to students. Part of self-care is reaching out for help when you need it.

What are some of the course readings and activities?

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Buddhist Vietnamese monk who spoke out against the Vietnam War and encouraged Martin Luther King Jr. to do the same. Thich Nhat Hanh created his own concept of a community called a sanga, where the community members come together to meditate but also to practice peace activism. His teachings are a great way for students to see how spirituality can connect with social justice work. We also talk about the philosophy of nonviolence, including the teachings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Archbishop Oscar Romero. And we examine how to deal with anger in a healthy way with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an anti-apartheid and human rights activist.

We also do various kinds of meditation at the beginning of each class so students are introduced to basic examples of these practices that they can then explore further if they’re interested.

How would you like this course to impact students now and after they graduate?

Many of the students in the class are activists and plan to make a career of social justice work. I hope this class helps them establish a self-care practice now that will prevent burnout and help them be healthier and more effective change leaders.

 

Victor Narro is a nationally known expert on the workplace rights of immigrant workers. He is a project director for the UCLA Labor Center, a core faculty member for UCLA Labor Studies, and a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law. The Spirituality, Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Social Justice course will continue to be offered, more information to be released soon.

By Kent Wong

Director, UCLA Labor Center

The UCLA fall quarter course Introduction to Labor and Workplace Studies: Class, Race and Social Justice gave 240 students the opportunity to participate in a collective bargaining simulation, the largest such exercise in UCLA history. This is the second year the course has been offered and taught by Labor Center Director Kent Wong and Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Director Abel Valenzuela.

Each of the students was assigned either a union or a management bargaining team, and they prepared individually and in their teams for several weeks. The student negotiations focused on three issues: wages, class size, and the expansion of charter schools within Los Angeles. All three are real-life examples drawn from the current negotiations between the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD). The LAUSD is the second largest school district in the country, with twenty-five thousand teachers. In a recent vote, 98 percent of teachers supported strike authorization. UTLA and LAUSD are now exploring fact-finding and mediation, but a strike is a strong possibility.

Of the twenty pairs of student teams engaged in the collective bargaining exercise, the vast majority came to a successful resolution. While a few decided to strike or lock out the teachers, most compromised on wages, class size, and the expansion of charter schools. Students were thoughtful and persuasive in their presentations, and many expressed how much they had learned about the collective bargaining process and the role of unions in the workplace.

Introduction to Labor and Workplace Studies is the core course for the Labor Studies minor. In the coming year, the UCLA Labor Studies major will be launched, the first and only major of its kind in the nine-campus UC system.

The UCLA Labor Studies program offers students an in-depth understanding of a broad array of issues related to labor and the workplace and prepares students for a variety of careers in labor relations, human resource management, law, domestic and international government, worker organizing, and economic forecasting. The program currently enrolls approximately 150 students and facilitates over 200 student internship placements annually. By critically analyzing the theory and practice of current workplace issues, students develop a deep understanding of the relationship between their education and society and how they, as college graduates, can transform the nature of work.

 

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 Kent Wong

Director, UCLA Labor Center

Rev. James Lawson Jr., a nationally known and celebrated leader of the civil rights movement, turned ninety years old on September 22.

The UCLA community has been very fortunate to have Rev. Lawson as part of our teaching faculty for the past sixteen years. His course, Nonviolence and Social Movements, is always popular with students. In 2016, the UCLA Labor Center published a book on his life and work, Nonviolence and Social Movements: The Teachings of Rev. James M. Lawson Jr.

Rev. Lawson was a close friend and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, and Rev. Lawson’s work in the civil rights movement is well documented. He was a leading force in the Nashville sit-in movement, in the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike, and in introducing the philosophy of nonviolence to a new generation of civil rights leaders. However, his role in advancing social justice movements in Los Angeles is less well known.

After moving from Tennessee to Los Angeles in the 1970s, Rev. Lawson served as pastor of the Holman United Methodist Church for twenty-five years. He was also a founder of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), which brings together clergy and lay leaders of all faiths with laborers, immigrants, and low-income families in the cause of a just economy. Through CLUE, Rev. Lawson influenced a new generation of religious leaders who actively participate in Los Angeles’s social and economic justice movements.

For many years, Rev. Lawson also led an emerging group of social justice leaders, known simply as the Holman Group, which included María Elena Durazo, Gilbert Cedillo, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Karen Bass, long before any of them were elected to public office. The Holman Group introduced these and many other social justice leaders to the philosophy of nonviolence and social change. To this day, Rev. Lawson continues to convene nonviolence workshops with labor and community practitioners. He has worked with hotel workers, janitors, and home care workers to advance nonviolent, direct-action campaigns that helped transform the Los Angeles labor movement.

This year marks not only Rev. Lawson’s ninetieth birthday but also the fiftieth anniversary of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, where Dr. King was assassinated after Rev. Lawson called upon him to come support the workers.

To celebrate Rev. Lawson’s enduring contributions, the UCLA Labor Center and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment will launch the UCLA Lawson Legacy Project this November, when Rev. Lawson receives the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor. The UCLA Lawson Legacy Project will establish an annual Lawson Lecture on Nonviolence beginning in 2019 and an annual scholarship to a deserving UCLA student engaged in the theory and practice of nonviolence. More details about the UCLA Legacy Project will be released at irle.ucla.edu soon.

 

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, the founding president of the United Association for Labor Education, and currently is vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

By Abel Valenzuela Jr.

Professor and Director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

The increased ICE raids, daily attacks on immigrants, children separated from their parents at the border, and a host of other mean-spirited, chaotic, and destructive directives from the White House often leave me feeling numb and helpless. Then I get angry, I remind myself that elections matter, and I double down on the work I do at UCLA. The impact of the research we undertake at UCLA proves that facts, data, and empiricism matter in our search for solutions to the most vexing problems that confront us. At UCLA, we nurture tomorrow’s leaders, who draw on their UCLA experience and training to better our country and our world. I am proud and inspired to teach, work, and research alongside some of the best and brightest that UCLA has to offer.

On June 18th, the Dream Resource Center launched the 8th annual national Dream Summer Program, showcasing the power of young immigrants and their allies coming together to grow and sustain the national immigrant youth movement. More than 600 Dream Summer alumni are working hard to build an intersectional immigrant rights movement, and many are leading national organizations. These leaders employ sophisticated social media tools, power mapping, network building with labor and faith-based organizations, storytelling, and cultural interventions and performance to push an agenda of immigrant inclusivity beyond just “dreamers” — to include undocumented families, new arrivals, and the working poor.

Last week’s opening retreat convened 60 participants to workshop, caucus, and network with Dream Summer alumni and immigrant rights leaders, activists, and workers. Presentations by alumni, national leaders, and elected officials provided first-hand insights into the legislative process, political landscape, and the inner workings of the electoral process. Interns participated in workshops on wellness and self-care, which is vital in an era of increased hostility toward immigrants, uncertainty, and political unpredictability. Other workshops focused on the deconstruction of mass incarceration and detention/deportation, gender and reproductive justice, and freedom cities that draw on the principles of sanctuary to ensure safe geographic spaces. Participants learned about community organizing, social justice research, legal advocacy and access, and social and digital media organizing. Leadership training also included job skills like public speaking, networking for introverts, cover letter writing and resume building, event planning, and strategic communications.

Following this retreat, participants disbursed to their respective community-based organizations and labor unions to begin their hands-on training on issues that directly impact immigrant communities.

It is both historic and fitting that UCLA hosts this summer fellowship program, and it reflects well on our unique and historical relationship to immigrant and undocumented students. We are, after all in Los Angeles, home to one of the largest concentration of immigrants in the country. UCLA was also home to Tam Tran and Cynthia Felix, champions of undocumented students in higher education, whose lives where tragically cut short in an automobile accident. They demonstrated the impact of engaging with public and elected officials, pushing a broader and more inclusive immigrant rights narrative, and empowering other young immigrants to collectively organize for social change.

The Dream Summer Program provides me with a great deal of hope and excitement, witnessing young immigrants challenging and changing our country for the better.

 

Abel Valenzuela Jr. is Professor of Urban Planning and Chicana/o Studies, Director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Immigration Policy. Professor Valenzuela is one of the leading national experts on day labor and has published numerous articles and technical reports on the subject. His research interests include precarious labor markets, worker centers, immigrant workers, and Los Angeles. His academic base is urban sociology, planning, and labor studies. 

 

 

CSW

By Gracen Brilmyer, Graduate Student Researcher, UCLA Center for the Study of Women; Alexandra Apolloni, Program Coordinator, UCLA Center for the Study of Women; Rachel Lee, Director, UCLA Center for the Study of Women

Eating a Tide Pod might make for a good YouTube clip, but we all know that it’s dangerous.

However, it’s not just eating  detergent that’s harmful. Many of the ingredients in common detergents and fabric softeners have not been rigorously tested for safety–and yet, we’re exposed to them through daily physical and respiratory contact.

Commonly used laundry, cleaning and personal care products contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can mimic hormones and disrupt one’s metabolism, even at low levels. EDCs are present in synthetic fragrances, which can cause more immediate adverse reactions including headaches, respiratory difficulty and difficulty concentrating.

Exposure to these chemicals is actually a feminist social justice issue. Since women perform a disproportionate amount of domestic labor (such as housekeeping, laundry, etc.) and use more personal care products, they are more exposed. Additionally, environmental pollution is often concentrated near where people of lower economic status or people of color live.

There has been little effective chemical regulation in the United States, but feminist environmental and disability activists are pushing for change on this issue through organizations like Women’s Voices for the Earth, Canaries Collective, and others. Women scientists have also been innovators in this area: UCLA’s the Center for the Study of Women (CSW) is currently building on Anne Steinemann’s work on consumer product emissions, Ana Soto’s discoveries on the endocrine-disrupting potential of BPA and Claudia Miller’s research on illness caused by exposure.

CSW’s Chemical Entanglements initiative is mobilizing UCLA students and faculty to be leaders in these efforts. Chemical Entanglements is a multi-pronged initiative that involves public events; undergraduate and graduate mentorship, writing and research; and collaboration across departments and communities. We’ve created original artwork for educational materials with artist/activist Peggy Munson; we’ve gathered researchers and activists from across the country at an innovative symposium that explored new approaches to public health and education; we’ve begun to document the social and cultural histories of chemicals and the people whom they’ve harmed; and we’re surveying UCLA students to assess how much of an issue chemical sensitivity is on our campus. Ultimately, we want to change policy so that our communities can be safer and healthier, and we want to raise public awareness so that people can better protect themselves and others from exposure to toxins.

Our CSW Undergraduate Research Group is on the front lines of this work. Students Vivian Anigbogu and Sophia Sidhu have been using UCLA’s archives to document the history of scent and fragrance in manufacturing. Sophia has created an interactive timeline that traces the development of synthetic detergent and the introduction of the carcinogenic additive 1,4-Dioxane in Tide products, while Vivian has shown how the history of racism ties to the history of soap advertising. Undergraduates are also leading the way to make campus healthier. Hannah Bullock has developed a survey that we are beginning to roll out across campus. The survey will help us understand how UCLA students are impacted by chemical exposures, including, for instance, whether the smells of fragrances make it more difficult for them to concentrate while taking tests or live safely in their dorms. Our students are also developing outreach and education resources, including a short film produced by members of last year’s undergraduate group. It depicts the kinds of exposures a UCLA student might encounter on an average day.

You may be wondering, other than avoiding the temptation of a deliciously colorful tide pod, what can you do to keep yourself safe?

  • Use products that are labeled “fragrance free”
  • Avoid products that have “parfum” or “fragrance” in their ingredient list (these are prevalent in scented shampoos, lotions, deodorants, etc.)

But this kind of consumer activism can only go so far: exposure to EDCs is an issue that impacts everyone, and disproportionately impacts people who are the most marginalized and can’t afford “safer” “green” products or move to less polluted neighborhoods. Through Chemical Entanglements, we hope to build toward policy change that will support the health of people of all genders.

For more resources and information visit CSW’s Share the Air website.

Learn more about the Chemical Entanglements project.

Watch videos from the Chemical Entanglements symposium.

Participate in a survey to help CSW learn more about the impact of fragranced products on UCLA students.