A movement relies on many things: people, passion, community, art, even food. On Saturday, a new complex opened in South Los Angeles that brings all of these elements together in one home.
The Strategy and Soul center is actually three connected places. It is a cutting-edge theater, bookstore and organizing center. Together, these sites will become a nexus for the Labor/Community Strategy Center’s work to support and rebuild South L.A. Next year, the center will add Strategy and Soul Foods, a coffee house offering diverse and healthy food.
For decades, South L.A. has been threatened and buffeted by increasing gentrification of its neighborhoods, issues with the city’s policing and destruction of good jobs for its residents, said Eric Mann, director of the Strategy Center.
During this time, the center has worked to counter these forces, fighting to keep the GM Van Nuys auto plant operating, cleaning up local oil refineries and creating clean energy jobs.
But there has not been a true center where grassroots organizers and community members could coordinate all the aspects of their fight to rebuild and strengthen South L.A., Mann said. One of the ideas behind the center is to make organizing and movement building as simple as waking up in the morning, he added.
“About three years ago, director of organizing Manuel Criollo [said] I think the Strategy Center needs another revolution,” Mann recalled. We “wanted to really create a physical space for all the work we have been doing in South L.A.”
The idea for Strategy and Soul was born.
That idea became a reality Oct. 8 when families, community leaders, musicians, artists, teachers and other residents gathered to celebrate the opening of the complex of connected storefronts, which is also known as the Movement-Building Center in South Los Angeles.
More on Strategy and Soul and South L.A.
Strategy and Soul is located at 3546 W. Martin Luther King Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90008.
This approach is based on a vision of the center crafted in 1992 by Mann and fellow community advocates and leaders Anthony Thigpenn, Robin Cannon and Charlotte Bullock, “Reconstructing Los Angeles—and U.S. Cities—From the Bottom Up.”
“We responded to the despair, anger, and militancy of the people after the acquittal of the LAPD in the Rodney King police brutality case with the demand for ‘The Social Welfare State not the Police State.’ We raise that demand again today with even greater urgency,” The Labor/Community Center said in a flier about the opening of Strategy and Soul.
The new center is designed to be a positive hub to help “rebuild, reconstruct, and re-volutionize South L.A. and U.S. cities,” the center said.
The theater, for example, will show a range of films, focusing on political movies that will resonate with community organizers and people interested in social justice, such as “Norma Rae” and “Chinatown.”
At the bookstore, community members can find “Hands on the Freedom Plow,” “The Seven Components of Transformative Organizing Theory,” “Goodnight Moon” and other titles connected with movement building.
The Strategy and Soul Organizing Center will host some of the daily work of movement building: constructing props, known as agit/props, for marches; monthly membership meetings; and other events.
“Everyone is coming. We are going to make it a…block party to celebrate the unity of these groups,” Mann said.
Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice News. This story was updated on Oct. 10 to reflect the center’s opening. The top image is courtesy of the Labor/Community Strategy Center.
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