East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice info@eycej.org 323.263.2113

You Can’t Spell East Yard without Bob Eula

By Gilbert Estrada, Ph.D.

Bob Eula is East Yard.  He was the heart, soul, and crucial part of three young men who tried to fix a serious problem. 

He was the councilman, friend, concerned citizen, and active partisan that worked for a better future.  The world was truly a better place with him here. 

Robert Eula arrived in the City of Commerce before there was a Commerce.  A bright eyed 16-year-old who moved from Connecticut to the Commerce area at his father’s doctor’s recommendation.  His physician, like many in the 1940s, believed the L.A. air would benefit his father’s heart condition.

With open lands and Japanese gardens nearby, the Los Angeles River Freeway began construction, later known as the 710 Freeway.  “I just noticed a lot of my friends’ homes being taken that I use to hang around with.  Well, all of a sudden we hear that the freeway is coming through.  You know and it’s here and then the homes are being taken for these bridges,” Robert told me at his home in 2005, which is adjacent to the 710 Freeway.

On his first day as a City of Commerce councilmember in 1972, Robert made sure public comments were heard, ending a previous rule requiring citizens 72-hour written notice before they would be heard, the city reports.  With this type of passion for community collectiveness, community service, and policy change, Eula utilized those skills to improve the health of Commerce residents through East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. 

One of the most extraordinary stories he shared comes from 2003 when Eula purchased a carbon monoxide monitor (CO).  Once it was turned on, the alarm rang and he called the gas company.  When the technician arrived, no CO leaks were found.  But when they stepped outside, they found the problem.  Commerce ambient air quality was so poor, it set off the alarm. 

Bob spent his adult life serving the community.  After retirement, he worked even harder.

Bob Eula is gone.  Long Live Robert Eula.  Long live East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

“Fighting for life” -Bob Eula

Remembering Bob Eula, co-founder of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and his fighting spirit:

We recently heard the news that Bob Eula passed away, on January 16, 2020. Our hearts are heavy as we remember Bob and the formative work he did as a co-founder of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. East Yard’s foundational work with Bob started about 20 years ago. Most of the early East Yard members grew up in the City of Commerce. This was true for Bob but many years before the rest of us, still we all had that connection to the neighborhood.  Bob was definitely a well-known person in the area due to his community leadership and political career.  In our small community, Bob was the mayor and presented many of us our preschool “diplomas.”  Around 2001, many of us really got to know Bob in an immense way. Just around that time Bob, Gilbert Estrada and a number of other community members started East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.  At that time, our community was under attack (and still is) from a barrage of diesel pollution from the rail yards, heavy duty trucks from the 710 freeway, and numerous other polluting sources like Exide and Refuse to Energy that caused illness and death for many of our family members and neighbors. At the time, the community was up against many forces and didn’t know whether to fight or run. It was Bob that said, “We got to bond together and fight for our community. We have no other choice.”  Later Bob would come up with East Yard’s tag line, Fighting for Life. The day he presented the idea to the group, he pulled out a piece of paper with the phrase that his grandson illustrated in Old English lettering. Bob explained we have been fighting, and we will continue to fight, for life – for the lives of our families and the lives of our community. Nothing will stop us. 

Bob taught us many other things, too. He codified the compassion and love rooted in endurance and resiliency; he taught us the power of collective leadership.   Bob was a bit older than most of us and he always stressed the importance of intergenerational organizing. This work that linked generations, combined with his ability to work with anyone that had the same goal of protecting our community, was transformative for us. Bob was a pretty conservative guy but throughout our time together he would work hand in hand with the most radical people, both old and young. He demonstrated through his actions the effectiveness and need to work across differences. This type of engagement provided opportunity for growth for both the organized and the organizer. Most know that Bob had his moments; he knew he wasn’t always right and he would say it is never to late to learn and do the right thing. He was open to learning. He wasn’t a pushover but he would be the first person to say he was wrong and willing to change his position if it was the just and right thing to do. Bob was a mentor, a leader and force that cannot be replaced.

Bob will be missed but the work he forged with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice will endure as we continue to Fight for Life

-Angelo Logan (EYCEJ Co-Founder)

Bob Eula speaking to a group on a toxic tour at his home in the ABC neighborhood of the City of Commerce. Bob’s home, like many of his neighbors, is up against the Union Pacific Railroad East Los Angeles Yard, also known as the East Yard.

The Truth Fairy Project and the Exide Fights to Come

Over the last 24 hours we have been getting a steady flow of calls, emails, texts and DMs from media outlets wanting to get a soundbite to put out regarding USC’s children tooth lead study. Responsible journalists inform themselves before reaching out. Others keep us on the line for close to an hour wanting a crash course on Exide, only to lightly touch on what has gone down, sometimes not mentioning where our current struggles are, and using our words without attributing quotes. With all of this, what has become clear is that there is a general lack of understanding of the issues we face with Exide and soundbites won’t provide the clarity needed. Here we will discuss the Truth Fairy Project, it’s implications for our communities, and where the efforts of our movement are focused.
THE TRUTH FAIRY PROJECT
For generations our communities struggled to get Exide shut down, and we succeeded. We struggled to get soil sampling in our communities, and we succeeded. We struggled to get our homes cleaned up, and we succeeded. At least that’s what the many press conferences, reports, videos, etc. over the years would lead us all to believe. The reality is all of these struggles, where of course we have had victories, are complicated and ongoing. We are far from achieving justice in our communities, and so our struggle continues.
As the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) went on to take credit for the Federal Government shutting down Exide, and as some politicians applauded themselves for securing cleanup funds they never fought for (and even discouraged us from seeking), we moved to lifting up new priorities on top of this. Sustained cleanup funding, which we won through Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s battery fee bill. Workforce development and local hire for cleanup work, which DTSC piloted and successfully developed. Understanding and addressing the social and health impacts of Exide’s poison, which is the hardest of the tasks and accordingly where we found the least support. We began to move the conversation through our Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative, with our members conducting research on Exide lead exposure and the social and health impacts in our communities. Also, Dr. Jill Johnston of USC’s Keck School of Medicine responded to our call.
Dr. Johnston came to us with the idea of collecting children’s teeth and studying them for lead exposure. She explained that teeth have rings, similar to trees, and there is a partner lab where they can shave the teeth ring by ring and study the level of exposure, as well as the point in life when exposure took place. As a community based movement we do not have the resources or expertise to engage in a project like this on our own, and this highlights the importance of our partnership with USC’s Keck School of Medicine. As an academic institution, they often haven’t built trust and credibility in the broader community, and sometimes don’t have the skillsets to engage our communities the same as community movements or organizations do, and this highlights the importance of their partnership with us.
One of our first contributions to this effort was generating the name “Truth Fairy.” Lets be honest, asking people to give us their kid’s teeth that have fallen out is weird. Starting from a concept that many are familiar and comfortable with, the Tooth Fairy, we flipped the name and connected it to our other community driven data collecting efforts, including Groundtruhting (which includes creating data sets through DIY land use documenting, which was at the foundation of our Green Zones work) and Trucktruthing (where we conducted truck counts, particulate matter sampling, documented truck idling, and got No Truck Idling signs put up). Instead of slipping some cash under your pillow, we made a commitment to come back with information that will contribute to the healing of our communities through our fight for resources to address the social and health impacts of Exide.
Below are the findings of this project:
To view report click here.
We weren’t surprised that the lab found lead in children’s teeth. We anticipated that one of the major findings would be that levels of lead exposure would rise if they lived at properties that had higher levels of lead in the soil. None of this softened the blow of having this confirmed. What was extremely disturbing, and something we didn’t anticipate, was the spike in lead exposure in the third trimester.
Through our struggles we have learned that our bodies can mistake lead for calcium and deposit it in our bodies where normally calcium would go. This is why we find lead in teeth. The revelation that lead exposure spiked in the third trimester reminded us of the saying we often hear from our grandmothers, “mis hijos me robaron el calcio” (my children stole my calcium). In the third trimester, the exchange of blood and minerals between the fetus and the birthing parent is at it’s highest, so lead exposure that the birthing parent has experienced is passed down to the fetus. Typically we associate lead exposure in children with crawling and walking as they start to move around, touch surfaces and put their hands in their mouth, but in this case we have found that we are being exposed to lead before birth. Even when the Exide site is completely cleaned up, even when every home is completely cleaned up, Exide lead exposure will continue to be a legacy issue in our communities. Luckily our movements, and our fight against Exide in particular, has been and will continue to be inter/multigenerational!
 
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
SOCIAL AND HEALTH IMPACTS
First off, we need to do more research and generate more data. The Truth Fairy Project has included a relatively small sample size. 43 participants in an area that has over 100,000 residents. Here, funding has been an issue, so we call on government agencies and philanthropy to step up so we continue to expose the deeper impacts of Exide. Additionally we need government agencies and philanthropy to step up in Exide impacted communities to support with those of us who are more vulnerable now because of lead exposure. We need to address the impacts on brain development in children, which often manifests in challenges with academic achievement. We look to early education and additional resources in the classroom for K-12. We need to address the impacts on impulse control, which often manifests in violence in lead impacted communities. We look to youth employment opportunities, workforce development, local hire policies, reentry programs for our family/community members coming out of the system and returning to our communities. We understand these issues are intertwined and lead our youth in the school to prison pipeline. We also ask for others who have more experience and expertise in disrupting these issue areas to help inform us on what needs and solutions we should focus on addressing.
TRUCHA CON EL PLOMO – RESIDENTIAL CLEANUP OBSERVERS
As contractors move on cleaning up thousands of residential properties, we fear recontamination of properties that have been cleaned up, exposure inside the home during and after cleanup, incomplete cleanup, and any practice that compromises the health of our communities and waterways. We have begun training our members to be Residential Cleanup Observers so we can watch our blocks, document, and hold contractors and the state accountable.
LOCAL CLEANUP AGENCY
We still don’t trust DTSC! Change in leadership at an institution like DTSC does not automatically mean a change in the organizational culture within the institution. Whether through malfeasance, incompetence, lack of capacity, or otherwise, DTSC has failed us time and time again and we have not seen a momentum change on the Exide issues. We still need a local cleanup agency that is transparent and accountable to our communities on the ground, not an institution that is looking to do the least possible, if anything at all, and move on. We will better address Exide issues with a local cleanup agency, and DTSC will be better off not having to handle Exide issues. Former Governor Jerry Brown resisted change at the institution. We look to Governor Gavin Newsom, who is not at fault with what has happened but is responsible for how this is handled moving forward, to communicate with our communities and work with us in ways Jerry Brown refused to.
EXPANDING THE RADIUS OF THE IMPACT ZONE
When the California Department of Public Health released blood lead data for children that live within a 4.5 mile radius of Exide, it showed our children face higher rates of exposure compared to the rest of Los Angeles County. 99% of the homes that have been tested within the 1.7 mile radius require cleanup, meaning the edge of the contamination has not been found. These two facts point to the logical conclusion that the state must continue sampling beyond 1.7 miles to adequately profile the contamination. In fact, through our Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative, our members conducted soil sampling at homes beyond the 1.7 mile radius and found elevated levels of lead in Unincorporated East Los Angeles and the City of Bell. The state has often used the lack of resources, and wanting to prioritize cleaning up the homes with the highest levels of lead before anything else. This makes sense to a certain extent, but when there is money in the bank that hasn’t moved since Jerry Brown was last in office, this begins to feel disingenuous. Sampling and cleanup efforts can and should be happening at the same time.
CLEANUP FUND BILLS FROM THE LEGISLATURE
There are currently two bills moving through the legislature concerning Exide cleanup funds. One is a one time $100 million allocation (AB 1462). The other is an increase to the existing battery fee that will bring in tens of millions of dollars more annually without a sunset (AB 142). We hope both pass and are signed. We hope the bills are not put in to competition with each other, but unfortunately we are familiar with the opportunism that thrives with the toxic political games in Sacramento. Before leaving office, Jerry Brown took back millions of battery fee dollars as a “repayment” for the money the state “loaned” itself for Exide cleanup. The legislature allowed it. This is disgusting, as the state should be pursuing Exide for repayment, not looting the battery fee, especially when we are nowhere close to even seeing the horizon of the cleanup needed in our communities. It’s even more disgusting as Jerry Brown left office with a budget surplus, showing that looting that battery fee was not necessary in any way, shape or form.
RESAMPLING “CLEANED” HOMES
When Exide was still operating and we were knocking on doors to support community members in requesting their homes be sampled and cleaned, sometimes we would hear residents ask “Why should we get our homes cleaned up if Exide is just going to keep poisoning us with lead?” Our response was “We are fighting to shut down Exide to make sure that doesn’t happen!” We succeeded. Unfortunately, the contamination has blanketed our communities, meaning homes that have been cleaned up may have already been recontaminated from lead in the parkways (the grass area between the sidewalk and the street), roofs that the state has refused to clean, road dust, homes that were not cleaned responsibly and fugitive dust has been visible, and development/construction projects like the industrial freezer at Indiana and Union Pacific where large plumes of fugitive dust were seen flying over the first homes cleaned up in the Union Pacific neighborhood of East LA/Boyle Heights. As we push to expand the soil sampling area, we must double back and make sure we aren’t replicating a cleanup process that hasn’t worked. Other communities that have had to fight for lead cleanups like this have found themselves in the situation where homes need to be cleaned up multiple times.

MUNCIE, INDIANA
When Exide was shut down in Vernon, the contents of the facility were immediately shipped to the Exide facility in Muncie, Indiana. We attempted to reach out to people out there at that time and didn’t get a response. More recently we were connected to community members on the ground that are starting to build a movement because they too have been poisoned by Exide. They have asked us to tell them our stories and share our strategies, and so we have shared and offered to head out there to visit, conduct an exchange, and support their movement building on the ground. We are in solidarity with the communities in Muncie, Indiana resisting Exide!
THE CALL
If you are from the Exide impacted communities, join us! If you aren’t from our communities but want to support, follow our lead. Email info@eycej.org, call 323.263.2113, DM us on social media Facebook.com/EYCEJ Twitter/IG: @EYCEJ, #NoMoPlomo #WeAreJustTryingToBreathe

Mothers in the Movement

            

Every day our mothers sacrifice a little bit of themselves for us. This year we at EYCEJ want to celebrate our mothers that are in movement. Read some thoughts that these fierce leaders had to share:

 

Mary Duenas

  1.       Ver mirado a mis hijos crecer. Y mirar lo que they have turned out to be, parents, my daughter parent and student, mas que nada, Buenos hijos. Y lo mejor es los nietos que han salido de ahí.
  2.       Los logros que han salido. Cuando hemos ido a las juntas y yo junto con ustedes, parado, tabling, considering our decisión- un logro que ha salido y que tomado parte
  3.    Cuando mi hija iba a tener a su niño, very concerning for her staying here with the freeway so close. Grandson 3, diagnosticaron con autismo, my thoughts, its pollution, where I live, even the water, had something to do with autism. What’s hard about it is theres nothing to do when you don’t know what these companies are doing, and living in a small city and they don’t tell us- especially our council, they should know what’s there, and should be involved in community and let us know you know, sometimes we can’t do anything about it- like I don’t have the money to move out, but give us a heads up-warning, cigarettes have warnings.
  4.       To be more aware of what’s going on. Every little thing helps, even if its no throwing trash in drains. Un granito, ese granito de arena, si todo lo hicieramos, le diéramos mas vida a nuestro planeta.

 

Jackie Espinoza

  1. What is the most rewarding part of being a mother?

The most rewarding part of being a mother is spending quality time with my kids and walk side by them during their life journey.

  1. What is the most rewarding part of being an active community member with east yard?

The most rewarding part of being an active community member with East Yard is being able to participate and make a difference in the issues that concern our environment and our health

 

3.What is the most challenging part about being a mother in communities with environmental concerns?

The most challenging and frustrating part of being a mother in a community with environmental concerns is knowing there are issues and not having other mothers get involved in the struggle but only until something unfortunate affects them

 

  1. Call to Action: What do you want people to do to protect mother earth and our communities?

To become more aware of the issues concerning mother earth and our communities by joining efforts and doing something about it not just complaining. Mobilize!

 

Lovely Floreza

What is the most rewarding part of being a mother?

The most rewarding part of being a mother is becoming a “MOTHER”, having children are blessings.  Being a mother or parent you are able to watch your children grow, learn, trust, self-worth, confidence, love and care for one or the other, family, friends and others unconditionally.  When your children learn the true meaning of “LIFE” and they understand, then you have made the goal of truly in how to be a parent.

 

What is the most rewarding part of being an active community member with East Yard?

The most rewarding part of being an active community member with East Yard is that you feel “Welcome & Valued”.  East Yard Community is a very active environmental community. Each and everyone in East Yard welcomes you and others as a community of one. Each member in East Yard is considered as family or “Ohana of the Environment”. The feedback’s of each member are as important and valued for each concerns and challenges in the community.

 

What is the most challenging part about being a mother in communities with environmental concerns?

The most challenging part about being a mother in communities with environmental concerns is the community and environment itself.  Not everyone knows and shares the same values of how to important our environment and communities are. Out of ten individuals, two out of ten sees themselves as making an effort to all concerns of the environment.  Educating, teaching and learning are our biggest challenge as mother with all of our environmental concerns.

 

What do you want people to do to protect mother earth and our communities?

What people can do to help protect mother earth and our communities is help follow the “3 R’s”, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Volunteering for cleanups in the community. Shop wisely such as buying less plastic and bring your own shopping bag. Plant a tree and plants (flowers & vegetables) to help provide more food and oxygen which will help save energy, clean the air and help combat climate change.

 

Flori Boj-Lopez

  1. What is the most rewarding part of being a mother? It’s rewarding to see your kids grow. I love it when my kids learn new skills or information. It feels great when my kids can understand social issues even though they are 5 and 7. But they know what justice is and they are beginning to learn why we don’t have it and why we need to fight for it.
  2. What is the most rewarding part of being an active community member with east yard? I think the most rewarding part is that the accomplishments of East Yard have communal and long term impacts. East Yard always makes me feel like I can channel my anger into useful and effective action that actually makes my community and the world better for all of us.
  3. What is the most challenging part about being a mother in communities with environmental concerns? I think that the time I spend fighting for clean air is also time that my kids don’t get to play at a park, or get to be home with us. It forces us to do more work to protect our health from polluters– and the agencies that won’t hold polluters accountable.
  4. Call to Action: What do you want people to do to protect mother earth and our communities? I want them to get involved. I want them to come out to meetings, to make space for frontline and Indigenous communities, I want them to invest their own time and energy to learn about the issues. I want them to do the work alongside us.

Lupe Valdovinos

  1. The most rewarding part about being a mother is being able to foster the growth of such an amazing child. To see her free spirit blossom into the person that she will become is witnessing a pure kind heart that will live to share those same values she naturally possess. She is courageous and resilient, my Dahlia is my sunshine and I hope I don’t fail her. And her smile is all that matters.

 

  1. Being an active community member with East Yard has been a journey that has elevated me to discover my passion. That passion is to care and fight for an equitable environment for all. Fighting smart and losing fear and just going for what is deserving of our communities is something East Yards has taught me. I have found a home with the community members that have the same values about our surroundings, our well being and our families. The most rewarding part is constantly learning to be a better person. East Yards is a village that helps maintain the well being of every individual they encounter who shares the same values, values such as to respect our lands, all people and to support each other. (kinda sounds like a gang but we non-profit lol)

 

  1. The challenges I face as a mother fighting for environmental rights is having family support. As a Latina woman trying to convince family that what I’m doing matters and them not believing in you or the fight shakes up your insights, an internal emotional mental toll tries to bring you further down. They don’t believe your role, they understand the cause but do not believe that you can do anything to change the powers that be. This is the hardest part so a detachment overcomes our home, I try to ignore it as much as I can. But that is not resolving anything emotionally, yet I will continue to participate because, not only do I care for my immediate family’s well being from environmental hazards, but I will stand for all families/human beings/animals/ mother nature etc. and do my part however big or small my role is. But as they say “there are no small parts only small actors”.

 

  1. My call to action to protect mother earth and our communities is for people to voice their concerns. To get involved and generate support with numbers. Their presence is important to change the status quo and I want to motivate my communities to partake in this movement. We need people in our communities to learn and know their rights. I want them to actively be involved. We need to rise up and demonstrate that enough is enough!

 

 

Brenda Citlalicue Rivera Baeza

 

 

What is the most rewarding part of being a mother?

Hmmmm there are so many humbling experiences but hands down ALL the love!

And that my children inherited my contagious laughter!!!

What is the most rewarding part of being an active community member with east yard?

The fact that we are just that “active”! We get to see the impact of our work on different levels!

What is the most challenging part about being a mother in communities with environmental concerns?

Making sure we are asking the right questions and holding ourselves accountable for the choices we make for our semillitas. I’m always thinking about whether or not my decisions are in my semillas best interest.

Call to Action: What do you want people to do to protect mother earth and our communities?

I frequently ask people to consider what legacy they will leave, especially the youth. What kind of ancestors will we be for the next generations? Be wise in what we use on the daily baby steps matter! It’s also important to stop think how we can remedy the harm we’ve done in our daily lives.

Maria Becerra

Being a mother has so many rewarding parts that I don’t have only a specific favorite, one that comes to mind right now is at night when they fall asleep I like to watch them sleep. They sleep like little angels and I forget how bad my day was. During this time I get all my energy for the next and next day.

 

East Yard is so much fun that you want to be involved, East Yard is a kid-friendly organization and I love how they are accepting of my creatures.

 

The most challenging part of being a mother in a community with environmental concerns is very alarming. It makes me angry that my babies are exposed to all the pollution just because I can’t’ afford to live in a cleaner community.

People should be more involved and demand regulations for all these corporations that are getting our babies sick.

 

Maria Valenzuela

What is the most rewarding part of being a mother?

When you look back and see kids are going the right track and their healthy. When you see them push something that they want, because they’re accomplishment is my accomplishment.

 

What is the most rewarding part of being an active community member with east yard?

Learning. The learning that I have accomplished through being in the meetings cuz i know a lot and knowing about my community is rewarding, and I also got to know people and the passion you have towards community.

 

What is the most challenging part about being a mother in communities with environmental concerns?

Time. time conflicts with a lot of things you want to do. Doing things and being a mother and also a working mother, the conflict of time.

 

Call to Action: What do you want people to do to protect mother earth and our communities?

One thing I would like to see for people not just wasting providing things that they probably don’t even need, like recycling, I’ve always done it, but I’ve learned a lot. People should treasure what they have, there are many countries that don’t have water or food.

 

Rosalva Sotelo

What is the most rewarding part of being a mother? Ver a tus hijos felices, crecer, que están sanos, que no tienen vicios, que son buenos muchachos, y en todos lados te los ven bien-sobre todo felices y sanos.

 

What is the most rewarding part of being an active community member with east yard? Ver que a todos nos tratan igual, hay igualdad en todo, siempre eres bienvenido con una sonrisa.

 

What is the most challenging part about being a mother in communities with environmental concerns? Que te preocupas por que están expuestos a la contaminación, sobre  todo las preocupaciones y miedo de que ellos estén enfermos por tanta contaminacion. También el sentirte marginado, miedo a que a tus hijos los van a marginar u olvidar y nuestros hijos crean que siempre va a ser haci, y conformarse con eso.

 

Call to Action: What do you want people to do to protect mother earth and our communities?  Pues que nos unamos para luchar por el medio ambiente, sembrar árboles, juntarnos a recoger basura, limpiar nuestros ríos, nuestra comunidad.

 

 

Share the love…

On this Valentine’s Day, take a moment to share some love (aka call out polluters in our communities and their enablers)!

Shout to Kim Wasserman-Nieto with our partners the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO.org) in Chicago for inspiring these.

CEMEX & Bell vs. The People

The Vote – City of Bell Approves Settlement with CEMEX
Councilmember Alicia Romero – Motion to approve settlement with CEMEX
Councilmember Ali Saleh – 2nd motion to approve settlement with CEMEX
Mayor Fidencio Gallardo – Voted to approve settlement with CEMEX
Vice Mayor Ana Maria Quintana – Voted against settlement with CEMEX
Councilmember Nestor Valencia – Voted against settlement with CEMEX
The Bell & CEMEX Settlement:
We heard testimony that CEMEX can make up to $70 million a year at the site, so when the City of Bell settles for $400k a year, we know they will not prioritize utilizing these funds to mitigate the impacts on our health from this project. This is nowhere near enough money to protect our health from the impacts at the CEMEX site. This feels like a payoff, selling out our communities because the City of Bell is fiscally vulnerable after years of city mismanagement and malfeasance.
As the City of Bell settles, we prepare to continue the fight in the courtroom. Keep an eye out for updates on our lawsuit against the City of Bell and CEMEX.
The Real Disappointment of the Night:
Unfortunately, at this point many of us expect elected officials to want to do wrong by us, so we fight. At this point we expect companies to target our communities as a dumping ground, so we fight. At this point we expect government agencies who are supposed to protect us to fail, so we fight.
What is heartbreaking is when we witness residents come out to a public meeting to say they don’t care that we are being contaminated, say we should be used to it, say we should accept more pollution since our communities are already filled with it, say they don’t care about the surrounding communities of Bell Gardens, Maywood, Commerce and East LA that will be impacted as long as Bell gets some money, all seemingly to support their preferred political friend or family member. We received communications that residents were being intentionally misinformed and told lies about East Yard and our motivations by Bell Councilmembers. Unfortunately, at this point many of us expect elected officials to mislead members of our communities for their own political gain and to provide cover when they are harming our communities, SO WE FIGHT!!!
We build power in our communities because we recognize the best leader is someone who will follow the lead of our communities. Someone who will prioritize our health and well being.
#WeAreJustTryingToBreathe

Remembering Sandra Johnson

A couple of weeks ago community members from Long Beach, especially West Long Beach celebrated the life of Sandra Johnson.  Celebrated Sandra’s life and mourned the community’s lost.  Sandra has transitioned and past on.
 
Sandra was a great mentor to many, a true community leader and a fierce defender of justice. It was no surprise to see in the backdrop of Sandra’s services at the Buddhist Center, a large image of a Lion with text stating Lions of Justice. When I think about Sandra there is no other image that is more suiting then a Lion of Justice.
 
I first meet Sandra in 2009 when the community was waging its defense against BNSF and its proposed SCIG rail yard that would inflict harm on the neighborhood. Sandra came to EYCEJ with a clear plan and executed it. She mentored and mobilized community members and when needed stood up to some of the meanest Ironworkers in defense of her community.
 
Long Beach is a better place because of Sandra’s life work in the community and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice is stronger because of her. May her spirit be with us as we push on for justice.

Hace un par de semanas, los miembros de la comunidad de Long Beach, especialmente West Long Beach, celebraban la vida de Sandra Johnson. Celebró la vida de Sandra y lamentó la pérdida de la comunidad. Sandra ha hecho la transición y ha pasado.
Sandra fue una gran mentora para muchos, un verdadero líder de la comunidad y un feroz defensor de la justicia. No fue una sorpresa ver en el telón de fondo los servicios de Sandra en el Centro Budista, una gran imagen de un León con texto que indica Leones de la Justicia. Cuando pienso en Sandra no hay otra imagen que sea más adecuada que un León de la Justicia.
La primera vez que me encontré con Sandra fue en 2009 cuando la comunidad estaba defendiendo a BNSF y su patio de ferrocarriles SCIG propuesto, lo que infligiría daños al vecindario. Sandra vino a EYCEJ con un plan claro y lo ejecutó. Fue mentora y movilizó a los miembros de la comunidad y, cuando fue necesario, se enfrentó a algunos de los Iron Iron más mezquinos en defensa de su comunidad.
Long Beach es un lugar mejor debido al trabajo de toda la vida de Sandra en la comunidad y East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice es más fuerte gracias a ella. Que su espíritu esté con nosotros mientras seguimos adelante por la justicia.

A Note from Xugo to our community

Hello everyone!
I have big news for all!
 
I will be transitioning out of my role as SELA / ELA Community Organizer.
 
This does not mean that I will be leaving East Yards. 
This means that I will be shifting my role as staff and into a active member. 
 
The fight for the survival of our community will always remain my focus and I do not intend on drifting from our work. I am, however, choosing to fuse my dedication to environmental justice in communities of color and my drive to develop an empowering education. I hope to one day become a high school teacher bridging the needs of our community and its curriculum from k-12. 
 
It has been more than a privilege for all of you to allow me to facilitate our organizing in SELA / ELA areas. We achieved so much together.
 
We have seen membership spaces sprout from many neighborhoods. From Commerce, we grew into East LA, Bell Gardens, Lynwood, Maywood, South Gate, Bell, ect..
 
We have seen youth power grow from Commerce into Bell Gardens, East LA, Lynwood, Long Beach becoming a fully powerful community all its own seeing them fearlessly demand respect from school districts, mayors, cities in multi layered issues of race, class, and gender.
 
We have worked within our strengths and passions identifying needs and creating projects like our Zumba classes, Ride On All Roads, and La Cosecha Colectiva. Bridging our healing from the inside to holding contaminating companies accountable for their impacts on our communities. 
 
From our knowledge, we saw the emergence of the Fighting for Life Academy and the Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative.
 
We build power, force accountability and respect from state agencies, cities, governors, mayors, and powerful industries. 
 
We have and continue to fight for the dignity and respect we are inherently born with. 
 
We have achieved all of this together yet the most important is that we did all this by building each other and knowing that an investment in each other, is an investment in all of us. 
 
With every project and action we took, I am reminded of what we can accomplish it if we look within each other, identify what is needed, and build our own solutions outside of what we are given.
I am grateful for your teachings. 
I am grateful for your demands.
I am grateful for your fearlessness.
I am grateful for your anger. 
and I am grateful that we dare to imagine a world where living in communities of color does not cost us a decade of life. 
 
In closing this cycle of my role within EYCEJ Team, I would like to honor Marina Uranga Pando for her role and energy still present in our movement. I hope to continue to carry your same corazon y orgullo.
 
As many of you know, our work is very deep rooted in the essence of who I am and is reflected in every story I share with everyone.
 
I will continue in this beautiful struggle with you all. 
See you all at the next member meeting!
**Español**

 

¡Hola a todos!
Tengo grandes noticias!
 
Estaré saliendo de mi rol de Organizador Comunitario en Sur Este y Este de Los Angeles.
 
Esto no significa que vaya a hir de East Yards.
Esto significa que voy a estar cambiando mi papel como personal a un rol de miembro activo.
 
La lucha por la supervivencia de nuestra comunidad siempre será mi enfoque y no tengo la intención de derivar de nuestro trabajo. Sin embargo, estoy eligiendo fusionar mi dedicación a la justicia ambiental en las comunidades de color y mi impulso para desarrollar una educación de empoderamiento. Espero que algún día convertirme en un maestro de escuela secundaria que cubra las necesidades de nuestra comunidad y su currículo desde k-12.
 
Ha sido más que un privilegio para todos ustedes permitirme facilitar nuestra organización en áreas del SELA / ELA. Hemos logrado tanto juntos.
 
Hemos visto que los espacios de membresía brotar de muchos barrios. Desde Commerce, crecimos en East LA, Bell Gardens, Lynwood, Maywood, South Gate, Bell, etc.
 
Hemos visto que el poder de la juventud crecer en la Ciudades de Commerce, Bell Gardens, al Este de Los Ángeles, Lynwood, y Long Beach, convirtiéndose en una comunidad completamente poderosa. Hemos visto a los jovenes exigir el respeto y demandar accion de los distritos escolares, alcaldes y ciudades en cuestiones de raza, clase y género.
 
Hemos trabajado dentro de nuestras fortalezas y pasiones para identificar necesidades y crear proyectos como nuestras clases de Zumba, Ride On All Roads y La Cosecha Colectiva. Conectando nuestra curación desde el interior a las demandas que empresas contaminantes sean responsables de sus impactos en nuestras comunidades.
 
Desde nuestro conocimiento, vimos el surgimiento de la Academia Fighting for Life y la Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative.
 
Construimos poder, obligamos a rendir cuentas y respeto de agencias estatales, ciudades, gobernadores, alcaldes y poderosas industrias.
 
Tenemos y seguimos luchando por la dignidad y el respeto con los que nacemos de manera inherente.
 
Hemos logrado todo esto juntos, pero lo más importante es que hicimos todo esto construyéndonos unos a otros y sabiendo que una inversión en el otro, es una inversión en todos nosotros.
 
Con cada proyecto y acción que tomamos, me recuerdo lo que podemos lograr si miramos dentro de sí, identificamos lo que se necesita y construimos nuestras propias soluciones fuera de lo que se nos dan.
Estoy agradecido por sus enseñanzas.
Estoy agradecido por sus demandas.
Estoy agradecido por su audacia.
Estoy agradecido por su ira.
y estoy agradecido de que nos atrevemos a imaginar un mundo donde vivir en comunidades de color no nos cuesta una década de vida.
 
Para cerrar este ciclo de mi papel en el equipo de EYCEJ, quisiera rendir homenaje a Marina Uranga Pando por su papel y energía aún presentes en nuestro movimiento. Espero seguir llevando tu mismo corazon y orgullo.
Igualmente quiciera rendir respeto a todos los miembros, especialmente, Youth in Action, Adultos de Este de Los Angeles, Commerce y Lynwood de EYCEJ por su energia y entendimiento que todos llevamos parte de esta organizacion y en si la responsabilidad de avansarla juntos. 
Como muchos de ustedes saben, nuestro trabajo está profundamente arraigado en la esencia de quien soy y se refleja en cada historia que comparto con todos.
 
Continuaré en esta hermosa lucha con todos nosotros.
¡Nos vemos a todos en la próxima reunión de miembros!

EYCEJ Statement on the state EJ in CA

17:26:22

Cap & Trade, Air Quality, & Environmental Justice

 

Right now, a major fight is taking place in the Capitol – the extension of the Cap and Trade Program coupled with an Air Quality ‘improvement’ bill. A large and important bill package that on its surface appears to be a victory for environmental and climate justice advocates across the State. East Yards is calling a spade a spade and voicing our opposition to these bills.

While no one will (or should) argue that we do not need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously supporting emission reductions in the local communities most impacted by poor air quality, neither of these bills (AB 398 and AB 617) get at the core of solving our most entrenched environmental and environmental justice issues – and in some cases make matters worse and our struggle for environmental justice that much harder. These bills are major concessions to the oil industry – and our communities will be worse off should they pass. (Communities for a Better Environment created a brief breakdown of the most egregious bill language here, and our letter of opposition here).

We have been working\ with our partners at Earthjustice and CCAEJ to ensure that our communities’ needs are at the forefront of the conversations to shape environmental legislation. But it’s the likes of Jerry Brown and liberal politics that so often sacrifice the most vulnerable among us in order to gain political capital through top-down, non-transparent processes under the guise of progressiveness. At the end of the day, we who live next to rail yards, warehouses, refineries, and transportation corridors bare the worst consequences from bad policies – and this is no exception.

Time and time again, we are told that things will get better, our issues will get fixed, and we can trust people to do what they say they will do. We’ve got handfuls of IOU’s.

To the Governor – don’t come down to our hood, eat our tortas, profess to care about our issues, then turn around and serve us a steaming pile. The Pro Tem should be equally ashamed and embarrassed to be pushing this as a monumental achievement, knowing full well that his constituents will be severely impacted, as well as the advocacy groups that make cries for unity but turn around to support terrible policies to save face.

We don’t need fake allies. We don’t need more broken promises. And we definitely don’t need any more policies that will severely impact our already overburdened communities. We need real solutions, and beyond that, we need accountability. We acknowledge the hard work many organizations have put into the Cap and Trade process over the years, including several of our partners, and don’t want to diminish their efforts into forming these policies. But our communities are fighting for the right to breathe with dignity; we don’t have the luxury or privilege of accepting mediocrity.

To the Youth In Action clubs of 2017

Youth have always pushed the boundaries of our movement, and dared to envision and bring to life our wildest freedom dreams–this year’s Youth in Action members were no different. From defending their school to defending their community, they have all taken their leadership to the next level. We are immensely proud, humbled and thankful to build community and witness their power.

The following speech was written by Eddie Lopez, our teacher sponsor in Bell Gardens, we would like to extend the gratitude Lopez expressed to Bell Garden’s youth to all our Youth in Action members in Long Beach, Lynwood and East Los Angeles and to all the youth in the struggle across the globe.

#WeAreJustTryingToBreathe #YouthInAction

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for your support in these trying and confusing times. Words cannot convey the gratitude and emotions that are in my heart and soul, it is greatly appreciated. Being in education is a thankless job in many respects, especially as we have seen with the turmoil of layoffs, insufficient communication from board members, district officials, teachers and the public.  The most satisfactory aspect, from my perspective, is the support of students, especially to those who have taken to non-violent demonstrations, practicing their constitutional rights. As stated by the ACLU attorney Michael Hannon defending the East LA 13 in the aftermath of the East LA Blowouts, “The demonstration is a poor man’s printed press and his right to do so, it is as important as the right of a rich man’s newspaper or our talk of free speech is just a mockery.”

A student stated to me about the demonstration, “What is the point, it doesn’t matter.” What is the point, IT DOES MATTER, in regards to social movements, demonstrating, creating real change in society begins with one person. And it spreads like wildfire from one person to the next, and so on, and so on. That is the point, TO BE HEARD  and to churn AGAINST the wheels of opposition.

As Martin Luther King surmised in “I Have a Dream,” “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

Or as Dolores Huerta stated, “Don’t be a marshmallow, walk the street with us into history. Get off the sidewalk. Stop being vegetables. Work for justice.”

And finally Emma Goldman, “The strongest bulwark of authority is uniformity; the least divergence from it is the greatest crime.”

Demonstrations have led to social movements: Women’s suffrage, the great uprising (female garment workers strike in New York 1909, 1910) African-American Civil Rights Movement, Chicano and Puerto Rican Civil Rights Movement, Unions, Socialist Movement and Strikes during the Great Depression (1933-1938), Feminist Movement, Environmental Movement, American Indian Movement, Blowouts in East Los Aneles, Against Vietnam, Chicano Moratorium, Farm Workers (UFW), LGBTQ, Occupy and countless others. These movements have altered the fabric of these United States. Without demonstrations causes remain invisible, absent from the public view, an amnesia pervades, with invisibility no one realizes there is a problem, a history, a better beginning, a light at the end of the tunnel.

Again thank you, to those with a fighting spirit, that took chance of being uncomfortable and using parts of themselves they didn’t know existed.