Kafi D. Blumenfield, Liberty Hill's President and CEO, welcomed the donor-activists, community organizers, allies, friends and supporters who gathered tonight to honor Tim Gill, Gary Stewart and Margarita Ramirez at the Upton Sinclair Dinner.
Here's the text of her remarks.
"Good evening! I am thrilled that we have nearly 800 grassroots, community, and donor-activists with us here tonight!
We’ve been doing demographic research at the office lately and some numbers jumped out at me. Does anybody here live in 90210, Beverly Hills? Well, your life expectancy is 86 years!
Now, does anyone in 90062? In South LA? Your life expectancy is 75 years!
A 10 mile difference in Los Angeles means an 11 year difference in life expectancy.
It’s not that I didn’t know there would be a difference. Of course, I did. But there it was: Irrefutable evidence of the enormous divide between those who have and those who don’t here in a country founded on the idea of equality.
Over the year I’ve gotten to see many of you and catch up. And I’ve been hearing something new. For some it’s a kind of anxiety. For others, it’s disappointment. Even anger. Anger that the vision of change and democracy that we have been waiting and working for for so long, and felt we were promised, has not come quickly enough.
There are days when it’s hard not to wonder whose America is this? That despite our successes, we are losing ground. I think part of the reason for this frustration is that so many of us don’t see the way out. Where can we build the foundation for our vision of America?
My answer to that is right here!
Howard Zinn, the American historian, when honored at this dinner said, "Liberty Hill brings democracy alive."
I don’t want to make the things we are able to achieve together sound bigger than they are. Or be Pollyannaish. But let me share one story that represents hundreds of stories.
Koreatown is one of the most park-poor neighborhoods in L.A. and L.A. is one of the most park-poor big cities in the nation. For over a year, our grantee Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance — KIWA — brought its members and supporters together because they wanted a park.
Sounds like a small thing. In the vastness of our urban sprawl it will be just a postage stamp of green. But in Koreatown, a park isn’t simply a place to take your children to play. It’s afterschool and weekend recreation for teenagers. It’s a place for seniors to gather during the day. It’s a place for residents to get exercise and get healthy. With a community center, it’s a place for town hall meetings and ESL classes.
A park in Koreatown is a way of building connection, responsibility and pride in a community.
Knowing all this, KIWA educated their members and organized. They created a proposal with the Community Redevelopment Agency and applied for state funding. The organizers even worked with the community to plant seeds in the empty park site to help realize their vision of victory.
Together with all the local and statewide partners they engaged along the way, KIWA won its park, and funding to make it a reality.
So you may be thinking, ‘I get it.’ A park. A place to build and sustain the kind of community Margarita was talking about.
But there’s more. Each victory like this represents not just a policy win or a new park opened. Each victory reflects transformational moments in which everyday folks turn into powerful community leaders. These are the moments, multiplied thousands of times, that build social movements.
Anyone in this room who has come out of the closet…
Anyone who has spoken for the first time at a public meeting…
Anyone who has joined with their friends to work on a campaign and actually won!
. . .Knows what a transformational moment feels like.
When community residents win practical changes and get a glimpse of what it feels like to exercise the fullest extent of their human capabilities, they can only organize for more.
In this way, Liberty Hill brings democracy alive, by investing in transformation and leadership, strengthening organizations and movements for change.
Our work helps open the door for all people to fully participate in the life and direction of society.
This is why I often call Liberty Hill " L.A.’s House of Justice. "
It’s not a home for just us, you over here or you over there [indicating people in the room]. Liberty Hill’s House of Justice is for all of us.
From 90210 to 90062. A house for all of us.
And in the last year or two, we have thrown open the doors to this house.
We are really proud of our new efforts to stoke and strengthen strategic social change giving among young people, Asian-Pacific Islanders, African-Americans, and Latinos, and of our ongoing work with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender donors — many of you are here tonight.
Because you are here, whether it’s your first date with us or whether you’ve been with us for three decades, no matter your zipcode, your race, or your sexual orientation, I know you have already decided that social justice here in our city, in our communities is not only vital because we and our neighbors need and deserve our human rights but because what happens here in our city affects the world.
In the next several years, Liberty Hill is embarking on a plan to become an even more effective, powerful, public foundation. A key part of that is our upcoming move from the coast of Los Angeles to a more central location on one of the city’s great thoroughfares, Wilshire Boulevard. The move catapults us into greater Los Angeles and positions us to better serve our grantees and to broaden our base of support. It's another way we're working to make this L.A.'s House of Justice for all.
I thank you for being here tonight. Our leaders and our organizers on the frontlines also thank you."