The South Los Angeles Power Coalition will host its third annual South Los Angeles People’s Convention Dinner on the Economy and Education tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the Juanita Tate Community School, 123 W. 59th St., Los Angeles.

The event will bring together more than 100 South Los Angeles residents and community activists to develop a collective vision around the economy.

According to organizers, this vision promises to challenge the assumptions of the mayor and City Council, and the work from the convention will be presented to city leaders in the week following the event.

Those interested in seeing the resulting plans can visit the South LA Power Coalition website at www.southlapower.org.

Candidates running for the 9th District City Council seat, Ana Cubas and Curren Price, have also been invited to take part in the discussion.

“For years, we were told development in downtown would eventually benefit South L.A., but it never did,” said Kelly Flores, a local teacher and activist in the area. “As a unified community, we must fight to make sure that poor and working-class people who live south of the 10 Freeway finally become the priority in District 9.”

The cost to attend the convention dinner is free and those interested in attending are asked to make reservations by calling (424) 240-0987.

The dinner and convention is being sponsored by a diverse coalition of neighborhood councils and community groups, including UCLA, the South LA Power Coalition, Union Del Barrio, Latino Coalition PAC, Association of Black Social Workers of Los Angeles, Community Legal Resource Center, Mack Enterprises and Box Brothers Downtown.

The convention is being held 21 years after the 1992 civil unrest rocked Los Angeles, and despite the passage of more than two decades and many promises, not much has changed regarding the economic development landscape in South Los Angeles.

According to event organizers, the median household income in the 9th District is below $30,000 and 40 percent of residents live in poverty.

Additionally, in the last redistricting effort, despite valiant battles by current Councilmember Jan Perry, South L.A. was severed from what had traditionally been considered a key funding base–downtown.

Couple that with an apparent lack of interest by L.A. City leadership in South L.A. east of Arlington Avenue, and you have the community as it stands today.

“However, as folks have been saying for years, government can do more,” asserts Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi of the Maat Institute for Community Change, one of the convention organizers.
“They have numerous tax incentive programs, preferential contracting practices and tax subsidies that businesses want and need. Government can also pass laws (i.e. the recent Living Wage law in Long Beach) to create an environment where businesses are forced to come to the table and provide local jobs and benefits.”

Kwa Jitahidi continues “… the political leadership of that area has not been willing to put their political capital on the line to push the property owners, possible businesses and, yes, the community to make it happen.”

“And contrary to what people may think, the community activist says that even without LA Live and USC, the 9th District has economic assets that are not found in other areas,” according to a statement from the Power Coalition. “The manufacturing sector, which served as the region’s backbone during the years following WWII, still exists. CD 9 is home to a flourishing furniture and upholstery industry that provides goods to the city’s wealthy residents and corporations.

“The area’s proximity to the Harbor Freeway and Alameda Corridor make it a strategic location within Southern California’s growing logistics and transportation network. If the political leadership (i.e. the new Council member, mayor) can work closely with residents to leverage these assets to create solid job and local contracting opportunities, the poor that currently dominate CD 9 could be reduced in number through empowerment and not displacement. This would not only improve conditions in L.A.’s poorest district, but establish a model within the city in regards to effectively attacking poverty. While we must hold Ana Cubas, Curren Price, Wendy Greuel or Eric Garcetti accountable, the responsibility ultimately falls upon the struggling residents in CD 9, who will punish or reward these candidates by their votes (or lack thereof).”